A Final Look Back

I feel like it’s been forever since I last posted something.  I guess that’s because there has been a little bit of change going on from a career standpoint.  In the course of 2 weeks, I’ve gone from a 13 year career at General Motors to working on the agency side at MRM Worldwide.  I couldn’t be happier.  That’s not to say the decision to leave GM was an easy one.  Let’s face it, 13 years is a long time to spend with a company, especially in the context of today’s world.  There were A TON of things I would have never experienced if it were not for GM.  There were A TON of things I learned if it were not for GM.  For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Let’s take a final look back…

Saturn (1996 – 1999)

My time at Saturn showed me what a car company and culture could be like.  This was all about teamwork and respect.  I was also first introduced to Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  This was 1996.  If you read them now, they are absolutely still relevant.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This formed the basis for how I’ve shaped my career and interactions with people.

General Motors – Buick – GMC (2000 – 2010)

A lot happened in this decade.  I learned how to analyze data and form insights.  I went to 3 NCAA Final Fours (Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Atlanta) and Michigan State played in 2 of them.  I learned that automotive retail never takes time off and works hard.  Attention to detail should not be taken lightly.  Get your facts straight because it can only help you in getting a decision made in your favor.  This is where I learned to love digital, technology and social media.  I learned to stay positive and encouraging during times never seen before (GM bankruptcy).  Most importantly, I learned patience and humility.

To my former colleagues and friends at General Motors that helped shape me, I want to say THANK YOU.  That was the hardest part of the decision process for me to leave after 13 years…the people.

So now it’s time to look ahead.  I’m looking forward to what this next chapter in my career provides me.  I know I’m going to learn a lot.  Technology and the web continuously changes our view of things that have been so traditional.  My eyes and mind have already been opened just 4 days into the job.  The one thing that hasn’t changed are the (new) people that will help me grow and develop professionally.

Yes it is cliche, but change is good.  At some point, we are all presented with an opportunity that you just can’t say “no” to and this was mine.  Now it’s time to focus on what’s ahead.

What about you?  What was that one memorable moment in your life when you knew it was time to make a change?

Old Spice: Instant Case Study on Social Web Success

Absolutely hilarious.  That was my first thought as I started seeing the Old Spice guy make it’s way through my twitter stream yesterday.  Old Spice has taken it to the next level by having Isaiah Mustafa, also known as Old Spice Guy, respond by video to comments on its YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.  What started out with a commercial has quickly turned into an instant case study on how to integrate the social web into a traditional campaign.

I’m always looking for ways to get the ideas and concepts behind the social web accepted.  Case studies certainly help.  The thing I find most interesting, however, is that these concepts really aren’t new.  If you are trying to “sell” a brand to a consumer, the best way to do it is by building relationships with the people you want to buy your products.  This typically means thinking about your consumer first and what their needs are.

If you think about traditional marketing methods, it generally begins with launch planning, big media spending to air a 30 second commercial, billboards, magazine ads, etc.  How can “we” (insert brand here) get our message out to the most people in the quickest way possible?  Oh by the way, we have our website, facebook page and twitter account that we can also use to blast our messages to everyone.

I do believe these still have merit but what I do think is that brands (my company included) need to go back to thinking about what our customers want and not what we want.  I was fortunate enough to sit in a presentation from Jason Falls (Social Media Explorer) today.  One of his final points was for marketers (today’s talk was geared towards GM and its divisions) to think beyond the web.  To me, this meant thinking about coming up with marketing and promotions that integrate all aspects of consumer touch points which includes the social web.

  1. What can we do to help people connect?
  2. What can we do to enhance their online or offline experience?
  3. What can we do to facilitate and encourage sharing?
  4. What can we do to drive them to the showroom?

These were great questions that I hope encourages all of us to go back to the basics of what (I believe) marketing is all about…the consumer.

Technology has given consumers the means to ignore traditional marketing methods today.  Think about the DVR and how many commercials you watch.  What are you Mr. Marketer going to do to not be ignored and get to know the people you want to buy your products?

For another great case study, check out Dave Murray‘s post “Case Study: ‘Salty’ Is My New Hero“.

4 Opportunities for Buick and GMC

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while but finally decided (after some encouragement from my friend Gini Dietrich, a.k.a. Wonder Woman) to put my ideas out there.  I’ve talked a lot about why I think the social web is important.  Now I want to give some practical ways I believe large companies (like mine) can benefit from the social tools and begin to build their community.

There is a huge opportunity to truly interact with our customers through the tools that are now commonplace with most other companies.  Last month, I blogged about how important the customer was and posted a video from the Saturn Homecoming.  Today’s post expands on that.  These are 4 strategies that I’d love to see implemented at Buick and GMC.

1. Develop a loyalty rewards program
I believe Loyalty Reward programs have tremendous value.  Think about how many people wanted to rack up their airline miles for free tickets?  I’d take this to a different level for us.  I’d establish a Buick and GMC Loyalty Rewards program for owners.  Once you buy a vehicle from us, we reward you with a baseline amount of points.  These points can be used for discounted subscriptions for OnStar and XM.  What about using the points to attend special events sponsored by Buick and GMC?  Additional points can be earned when purchasing accessories or doing regular maintenance at a Buick and GMC dealer.  Why not reward someone for making a major purchase decision in your favor?

2. Interact with the 47,000 Facebook “likes”
Humanize your brand.  Give it a personality.  Develop a community and an environment people can interact with people.  For one thing, I’d showcase some of our employees.  Who is the face behind the all new Buick Regal?  What do you want to know about the Marketing Manager for the GMC Terrain?  (Ford recently did this with Explorer.)  I believe this would change some of the perceptions that currently exist about our company and the type of consumers we attract if they got to know the employees behind the logos.

What about showcasing the people that bought our products?  Facebook is really their forum.  As a marketer, I want to know who bought from us.  Encourage new owners to post pictures with their new Buick LaCrosse or their GMC Sierra and give us a comment as to why they love it and share their story!

3. Start a Corporate Blog
This idea started swirling around my head after I read this post from Social Media Examiner.  It talks about the influence blogs can have in search rankings.

  1. Adds naturally occurring, keyword-rich pages.
  2. Increases the potential for incoming links from high-quality websites.

A blog is one of the best ways to continually add pages to a website that generate relevant and reputable links.

If you want more reasons to do a corporate blog, Ted Defren just published this post on his blog.  In short:

  1. Blogging gives your company a voice
  2. Blogs are better place to direct people than your corporate website
  3. Blogging enforces respectfulness
  4. Blogging is timeless
  5. Blogging enforces content creation

Another reason to start a corporate blog is to further give the company a personality and build our consumer community.  Is there content that we could offer that talks about things other than the vehicles we sell?  Could it be social causes?  What about biographies of our leadership or employees?

4. Foursquare
Location based services are the current rage.  Foursquare is offering window clings to companies like Whole Foods to display so customers will check in and learn about special offers these stores offer.  Why not take this same approach to our dealerships or locations where we have sponsored events?  This could tie back in to the Loyalty Reward program I mentioned above!

The final thing I’ll leave you with is this.  Joseph Jaffe talks a lot about customer service in his book, Flip the Funnel.  Last night, I came across this quote as I was reading his book:

Customer service is a front-office strategic imperative that belongs at the same table as strategic planning, marketing communications, branding and advertising.

I’d replace “Customer Service” with “Customer Experience”.  Either way, this needs a seat at the strategic planning table.  This is where leadership buys in to the plan and is willing to invest in it.  With the web as a platform for consumers to get their voices heard quickly, you need to make the investment in money and man power to participate in this conversation.

By no means are these ideas “new”, but they may be “new” to my industry.  I just see these as great opportunities to integrate into our traditional marketing efforts.  What do you think?  Would this work for you as a consumer?

Caring is underrated

The SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference in Austin just wrapped up on March 21st and some of the highlights are starting to make their way onto YouTube.  I came across Gary Vaynerchuk‘s (@garyvee) presentation from this year and my mind got to thinking about how powerful the consumer is.

In his talk, Gary said that we (consumers) now have an audience through tools like Twitter and Facebook.  We have a voice and people are actually willing to listen to us.  They care about what we have to say otherwise they wouldn’t be our “followers” or “friends”.  As an example, most of you know I’ve been doing P90X for over 2 months now.  I can’t tell you how many times people on Facebook and Twitter have asked me, “does it work?” or “is it worth it?”.  My answer in all cases was “YES” and I’ve convinced people to buy it and do it!  Now if you work at Beachbody (the company that created it), you love this type of word of mouth endorsement.

Gary goes on to say that we all are in the customer service business.  I completely agree.  If you are using Twitter and Facebook to market to consumers (I’m guilty of that) then you’re missing the basic principle of why these tools are in place to begin with.  Maybe I should re-read my post, “It’s all about relationships.” If brands begin to care about their customers, then that’s a big deal.  Think Zappos.  Think Best Buy.  These companies get it.

Now the question I have is this…can an automotive company do it?  Are Buick and GMC too big to take an interest in their customers?  Some may say “yes.”  I say “who cares, why don’t we try?”  In the beginning of Gary’s speech he says he is most interested in DOING the things we say we AREN’T going to do because that’s where the opportunity is.  I’ve said this before…there are no second chances for us as a company.  It’s time to do things differently because what we did before didn’t work.  We need to think differently, act differently and just try.  Try new things.  We won’t know until we just try.

What do you think?  Is it possible for Buick and GMC to change perceptions by focusing on the customer?

“People need to start caring or they are going to lose.” ~ Gary Vaynerchuk, SXSW 2010

James 1:19 “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

I need an opinion…

I’ve seen a lot of research and blog posts on whether or not you humanize the brands you represent.  I’d love your opinion (by voting) on whether seeing pictures of people that work for brands on Facebook and Twitter helps you better identify with that brand or product.  Please vote and pass along to your friends.  I’d really like to see what we could do as Buick and GMC to get people more excited about our products and brands.  Thanks!  Polls close next Friday!

What’s your purpose?

“It’s not about you.
The purpose of your life is far greater than the your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even you happiness.”
~ Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

What is your purpose in life?  It’s a question that has come up a lot for me lately.  What is my purpose?  What is the purpose or mission of my marriage?  What is the purpose of the job I’m currently in?  What about the purpose of the brands that I work for…Buick and GMC?

To help me think through some of these questions, I asked a friend if I could borrow a book…The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  This will be a 40 day journey to help me discover “my purpose.”

As a side note…not really sure what it is with me and 40 day programs or 90 day programs.  If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ve been updating everyone on my progress through one of the best workouts I’ve ever done…P90X.  I just finished a book called The Love Dare.  This was also a 40 day journey on marriage.

Everyone has a purpose in life.  I know it has nothing to do with me but others.  How can the gifts and talents God gave me be used to help others?  It’s a question we all should be asking of ourselves.  Once I discover what that “purpose” is, I need to share it with others…

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
      And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

What is your purpose?  If I figure it out, I’ll let you know mine in 40 days…

Social Media and Social Causes

Everyone knows about the Red Cross effort to raise money for the earthquake in Haiti.  If you don’t, then you are not paying attention!  I first heard about it on Twitter and it continues to be a trending topic there.  It got me thinking again (dangerous) that social media as a communication tool is so powerful.  More importantly, when it supports a social cause like Haiti, it can be impactful enough to raise over $5 million in relief by merely texting “Haiti” to 90999.

As I’ve thought about ways to get more involved in social causes and philanthropy, I’ve met some great people that do it for a living.  For example, I met Daniel Herndon through Twitter.  His organization, Forkout, uses creative philanthropy and experiential marketing to “forkout” cash for worthy organizations.  One of his recent projects, Community First Initiative, was featured in the USA Today.  In an effort to raise money for Community First, Daniel and Darren Heil (director of Community First) lived underneath a billboard in a cargo van while providing updates via webcam and Twitter.  The goal was to raise $25,000 for CFI.  To date, they raised $18,000.  Click here to read the story.

So this week, the Washington D.C. Auto Show is going on.  Our sister brand, Chevrolet, has a display in which they are collecting donations in a Chevrolet Colorado for the Red Cross and Haiti.  In order to get the word out, many of us at GM are using Twitter and Facebook to generate the awareness and hopefully raise some significant money for the efforts by the Red Cross in Haiti.  A lot of money has been raised but the devastation to an already destitute country is unimaginable.  So if you happen to read this and are in the Washington D.C. area, please stop by and donate whatever you can spare, and while there you might as well check out the great products from  Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac!

Thanks for reading!