Tag Archives: relationships

What’s really “King”?

Some say big ideas are king.

Others say content is king. This is a popular one.

Know what I really believe is king?


It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are over and over again. And/or how good your content, and even more, how good your work is over and over again. And/or how good you do a particular thing.

If your relationship is not strong and you do not nurture it and grow it, all of the work and all of the big ideas and all of the content can go away in an instant. Literally.

It’s just so important to take the time to create important relationships and then to cultivate them and grow them. It takes time. It’s not a flash in the pan. This is what makes it hard.

But this is what also makes it sustainable.

This is what makes it king.

Dealing with Unruly People, Oh Joy.

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

One part of social media is dealing with unruly people. Actually, let me restate that – a large part of social media is dealing with unruly people. The open web has enabled everyone’s voice to be heard and many times, those voices are voices who are reactionary, irrational, and/or both. This is all just part of it. You have to be prepared for uncontrolled, unhappy people who engage with your brand. I’ve found a couple of things to be extremely helpful when dealing with these people and subsequently, the issue that they may spark:

  1. Don’t overreact – breathe. I’ll say it again, breathe. Step back from the situation and get your wits about you. The worst thing you can do, as someone who engages with your community, is to let your emotions respond to the situation. Your brain should respond to the situation in most all cases.
  2. Put things into perspective – often, especially in times of crisis, it’s hard for those closest to the community – that is the social media team or the community managers – to gain the proper sense of perspective. It’s easy to think if one or two people are causing a ruckus, then the same feeling reverberates across everyone in the community. And a response is needed immediately. This is not the case. As much as you can, look at the community as a whole compared to the unruly people at any given time.
  3. Understand who is talking – this is extremely important. Everyone behaves differently in social channels. Some people talk. Some people only share. And some people are just passive observers. Before responding in any way, understand who that person is, who they influence, how active they are in the social channels, and even more, what their personality is in those channels. If they’re constantly snarky and antagonistic, then it should be of no surprise when they are that way with your community. When thinking about how/if to respond to someone like this, detail these things out for the team. All of this context is important to help dictate the proper course of action.


There is a sense of immediacy that comes along with social media. In fact, responding/engaging in a timely manner is actually a responsibility. But this does not mean that the urgency should dictate the level of thinking, researching, and communicating needed to properly address the circumstance.

Now, with social media, anyone can create content and more, technology has enabled it to be shown anywhere, on any screen. The less controlled the content is and the more channels it is distributed on, the greater attention we all need to place on the finer points of relationships and communication.

Years ago, my old boss and mentor told me, “be the voice of sanity.”

Always be the voice of sanity.

Simple enough, right?


Especially with unruly people.

4 Reasons Why Build-A-Bear’s Communications Are So Effective

Build-A-Bear Credo

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how effective I think Build-A-Bear’s customer communications are. Today, I want to explore why I think they’re so effective.

Businesses and brands have 1 goal – sell more product. There are many elements to their particular business that helps or distracts them from accomplishing that goal. Branding, reputation, customer service, leadership, staffing, and communications are all critical. Perhaps the most critical, however, is the consumer. Something (and someone) that the brand has absolutely no control over. All they can do is establish principles and beliefs that are core to the brand and work as hard as they can to effectively communicate to consumers across all elements of their business.

The foundation of brands and their story is the emotional pull that attracts consumers. And the emotion is really the thing that not only drives sales, but sustains relationships over the long-term. And sustaining relationships over the long-term results in loyalty and advocacy. Loyalty and advocacy drive personal sales and also result in word-of-mouth referrals, which can lead to more sales. So, I believe a strong secret to success is creating and tapping into this emotion.

This is what I believe Build-A-Bear is incredibly effective at. I think the things that enable them to be so effective at creating and tapping into this emotion are:

1. They understand their identity, principles and beliefs. They know who they are, what they stand for, and what they believe. This is the foundation to their business. It’s why people come to work for them and ultimately, why people continue to buy stuff from them.

2. Everyone and every channel work in concert with one another. Without seeing behind the curtain and the inner-workings of their organization, you get a strong sense that marketing, communications and retail are all on the same page. Direct mail to the website to the online community to the store. It’s like it’s one big communication – or story – regardless of where you’re interacting with the brand.

3. They actually have a communications plan, most specifically a CRM (customer relationship management – which is a bad term) plan. Having buy-in, within the organization, on the importance of a fully integrated, cross-channel communications plan is the first step. Many organizations cripple themselves with the seemingly overwhelming complexity of such buy-in and as a result, never get to actually creating the plan. And this –creating the plan – is the second step. Then, with a plan, each department within the organization can work to add and optimize. Having a plan is easy in theory, but difficult in anything beyond. Build-A-Bear has made a commitment to communicate in a measured, relevant way with their customers.

4. The bear is the connection. The beautiful thing about the bear is that it is the emotional tie. It is the best friend. It is the lifelong companion. It automatically comes with emotional connections.

In this hyper-connected, multi-screened world that we live in, integrated and consistent communications are more and more critical to brands. One big story.

But even then, I don’t think it’s enough. Just as Build-A-Bear does, I think creating and tapping into emotions – through every touchpoint – are the thing that’s builds and sustains relationships over the long-term.

Who else do you feel is effective at creating and tapping into emotions with their communications?



Build-A-Bear Makes Little Girls and Grown Men Happy :-)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these guys at Build-A-Bear have it figured out. For a business that is centered around creating best friends for boys and girls of all ages, it’s encouraging (and not surprising) to see how important relationships are to them. But I think they provide a great model in how they use the emotional pull of relationships to drive foot traffic and sales.

Earlier in the summer, we received this in the mail:

Build-A-Bear Summer Scrapbook

A fun, little, fold-out booklet that allows you to create a simple scrapbook and play a few games while you’re at it.

Build-A-Bear Summer Scrapbook

My daughter has kept it under lock and key ever since she pulled it out of our mailbox. She just thinks it’s so neat to look at everything in her “own” little booklet. It’s about her and her bear and all of the possibilities that they have together.

Build-A-Bear Summer Scrapbook

While all of that is great, here’s the thing that really made me happy:

Build-A-Bear Summer Scrapbook

And not because I want a free pool for Build-A-Bearville.

But because of what it stands for.

Yes, it’s essentially a coupon, but for this particular communication, they’re driving me to their online community, not into the store. Which I really appreciate and think is great. This is a different kind of transaction. They’re driving me deeper into the brand experience, pulling on both mine and my daughter’s emotions. They know that the more invested we get in the online community, the more we build out and personalize our experience, the more likely we are to eventually come into the store. And tell others about this community. And our experience.

That’s not all…

Last week, I received this email:

Build-A-Bear Birthday Email

It was of no surprise because last year, I received the same. But in contrast to the swimming pool coupon that drove me deeper into the online community experience, this one is intended to get me into the store. Once I’m in the store, they know I’m probably going to spend more than $5.oo and even more, they’ll have another opportunity to enhance my entire Build-A-Bear experience.

All of this through 2 personalized communications with me. When you think about it, these communications are nothing mind-blowing, particularly from a communicator’s/marketer’s standpoint. But effective doesn’t have to be mind-blowing. It just has to drive action. And that action can be had through emotions.


Finding Balance – Sales & Relationships

Balance | 11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

As marketers and communicators, I think balance is key to so many things we do. Over the next few days, I’m going to explore some of those things.

First one up is the brand’s end goal. At the core, I believe brands want 2 things:

1. Sell products

2. Create and develop relationships with consumers

Each can lead to the other, if done right. But without an eye on both, the sale can happen with nowhere to go.

I believe that it’s in “going” where the growing occurs. Growth can lead to more brand experiences or telling other people about it or best, loyalty.

But this growth is soft. It’s not as easy to see as a sale, especially after the sale occurs. We’re in a time, though, where technology makes it easier and easier to see this growth. There are many tools (specifically social media tools) and specialized talent that can help see beyond the sale.

The sale and the relationship are achieved through different strategies, different tactics, different people, and different tools. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and I don’t think any of my agency and/or brand colleagues would argue that point. But this is where the balance comes in. Sales come and go and yes, they drive business. But I think, more and more, the heart of the business is becoming the fans, the actual people who want to have a relationship with the brand. If the brand turns a blind eye to them, whether out of choice, ignorance, operations, or council, where does that leave the brand in the end? It leaves them in a position where they’re perceived to not care. And caring is a personal thing. An emotion. It’s soft.

But, it’s something that can influence thousands or millions of sales.

This is something that I’ve experienced makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to understand and it’s hard to do. There is an ongoing debate on how you actually show real value to this relationship part. It’s not easy.

Here’s the deal, though – in our world where selling stuff is so important, there’s never been a greater bridge to form relationships as there is now, with the open web, on-the-go technology, and the people’s desire to be connected and grow with the brand.

It’s about seeing these relationships as equally important as the sale. And that’s the balance that you have to find.

I’d love to hear what you guys think about this. Is this a balance that you see as important, or better yet, strive to maintain?




How You Say What You Say

Everyone always says “actions speak louder than words,” but what about those times when you can’t show someone an action?

In times of crisis, it matters what you say.

In times of comfort, it matters what you say.

In times where you can’t show someone compassion or understanding or sympathy, what you say is the only the only thing you’ve got.

How you say it shows someone an action when they can’t see it.

People need to hear words. And they need to hear the emotion behind those words. Because in today’s world – where relationships are made with a click of a button – there are many people you might not get to show how happy you are for them or how bad you feel for them.

You can have a whole group of friends or colleagues that you never see.

So, how you say what you say has never been more important.