As part of our year-end, Firebrand Group released a new Ebook, 20.16 Big Ideas for 2016. In it, we asked a number of our favorite award-winning marketing experts, authors, and other thought leaders--in addition to some of our own team of digital strategy and branding experts--to recommend one "Big Idea" that companies can take advantage of to get ahead in 2016. You can download the entire Ebook here.
One of the folks I was fortunate enough to interview for this project was Zvi Band, Founder & CEO of Contactually, the lightweight CRM which raised $8 million in Series A funding back in November. Band's Big Idea for 2016, perhaps unsurprisingly, is for executives to zoom in on their key relationships. Here's some of our conversation:
Interesting Big Idea--but it makes sense given your expertise. Can you tell us more?
We're still in the post-social media broadcast wave, where we realize the number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans doesn't matter to our business, our employees, or our bottom line. Our bet is that the most successful businesses in the world will be built upon personal, authentic relationships with their clients, partners, and employees. People do business with people they know - so in turn we have to ensure we really know who these people are.
Some people may say that fans and followers do matter. What do you say to them?
Fans and followers are the top of the funnel - so yes, of course they matter. Leads are the lifeblood of a company's growth, and social media is still a great channel. But remember when you were begging all of your existing customers to follow you to "get in on the conversation?" Remember when you were *this* close to buying 5,000 followers for 5 bucks? I think those days are long gone, and thankfully so. Instead, we care about attracting and engaging with the right people for our business.
What's your 2016 recommendations for busy executives?
The recent mantra of "work on your business, not in your business" is inaccurate. Yes, we as leaders do have to ensure we're both carrying the torch of long term vision and maintaining the big picture. But the concept of doing that at the sacrifice of the every day needs of the company - meaning, our team, that's false. I bought into that, and I paid for it in mid-2015.
The deep relationships we need to have with our customers, investors, and candidates - that needs to be extended to our team too. We should never be afraid to pick up the phone with our users, respond to inquiries on social media from our own accounts, or take an employee out to coffee.
I do think this means that we have to cut out other things. Maybe don't go to as many conferences. Maybe stop going to networking lunches with other executives who, face it, don't have much to add to us.
What hacks, apps, and tools do you use to develop deep relationships? Besides Contactually, of course.
I have a recurring calendar appointment with every employee, once a quarter, for 30 minutes. Obviously I'm speaking with most of them much more often than that, but it's a catch-all to ensure that we get some private time to step back. It doesn't feel artificial - the mechanical repetition is there to ensure we still have a relationship despite the ongoing insanity of a scaling company.
I have a spreadsheet with notes I fill out as we're talking - I usually casually ask most of the 12 Gallup Questions (if you're a manager and you don't know what those are, stop everything). I use Evernote for keeping track of more regular 1:1s with senior execs and managers. Both of those tools are useful, as I can look back and see what we've talked about recently, and what's going on with them.
More recently we've started using a tool called TinyPulse. It asks one anonymous question of your team, every week. I've incentivized usage of it, so we almost always get at least a 90% response rate. It's interesting because, while they post anonymously, I can post a reply as myself. I've had deep conversations with employees, without knowing who they are.
So: Recurring calendar appointments, spreadsheets, Evernote, Gallup Q12, and TinyPulse. And, of course, Contactually
Looking for more from Band's peers, such as such as Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari), best-selling author Ann Handley, Alexa von Tobel (Founder & CEO of LearnVest), and many more? Access the entire Ebook here. And here's wishing you lots of success at rolling with the punches in all your 2016 launches.