Getting To Know…Nikki Stephan

Today’s Getting To Know carries with it special meaning.  Today I’d like all of you to get to know Nikki Stephan but after Saturday, it will be Nikki Little as she walks down the aisle with her soon to be husband, Mike!  I met Nikki a couple of years ago when I started really engaging on Twitter.  After a few tweet exchanges, we met in person at one of the many social media events here in Detroit.  Since then, it’s been great getting to know her more as she has changed jobs and now is about to embark on a new journey as a wife.  Check out Nikki’s blog, Essential Elements and follow her on Twitter.  If you’re really interested to see how the wedding is going tomorrow, follow the #littlewedding and #kikisreception hashtags on Twitter to join in the fun!

For now, get to know Nikki!  Happy Friday everyone!

Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
 I can’t choose between my dad and Mike (soon-to-be hubster), so I choose them both! My dad is influential because he’s been there for me through everything. We’ve dealt with some tough times throughout the past 5 years, and he did everything he could to keep me strong. I admire him very much. I would not be the person I am today without his love and support. Mike is influential because he understands me better than anyone ever has or ever will. He is everything that I am not, and he makes me a better person simply by being my other half.

Guilty dessert pleasure?
Hmm, it’s hard to choose one dessert, but I would have to say cheesecake. Or, the butterscotch pudding dessert at the Woodshop in Clarkston. It’s amazing!

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone?
Think of every mistake as a learning opportunity. You grow and become a stronger person with each mistake. Find a way to learn from every failure.

Favorite childhood memory?
Playing cards and eating waffles with my grandma when I was little. She used to watch me in the summer when school was out, and she would always give me waffles for breakfast and play card games with me all day long. I’m pretty sure she let me beat her most of the time!

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It’s OK To Say “no”

Lake Michigan Sunset at PJ Hoffmaster State Park

Life gets in the way.  It gets in the way of what’s truly important and we sometimes forget that it’s OK to say “no” to things just so we can get back on track.  Tonight I was going through Google Reader and Twitter and saw  posts from Becky Johns (Take Control of Your Stream) and Nikki Stephan (22 Important Questions to Ask Yourself).  They were about different topics but for me anyway they had the same message…take a step back.

My work (as I’m sure yours) has been ridiculously out of control as of late.  It wasn’t until this past weekend when I took 2 days off to have a long weekend camping that I was able to relax.  It was a wonderful 4 days at PJ Hoffmaster State Park spending time with the people that matter the most to me…my wife and kids.  And as you can see by the picture above, we even took time to watch a beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan.  When I got back to work this week, I began to take inventory of what I do daily and say no to the things that don’t provide value.

Becky’s post really encouraged me to take a look at my social networks.  As I continue to learn from this beautiful creation of “social media”, I need to remind myself that more is not necessarily better.  It has to be quality over quantity.  When the numbers get too big, the chance of authentic and valuable friendships becomes limited.  It reminds me that one of the objectives for me in this space was to ultimately meet people in person through events like Future Midwest, Social Media Club Detroit, or October’s 140 Conference Detroit.  I’ve tried to become more selective in who I connect with especially on Facebook.

Nikki’s post reminded me that saying no to busyness and spending time with my family is so important.  Tonight I put my blackberry down for just 30 minutes and played with my 1.5 year old son.  It was fun seeing him laugh hysterically as I tickled him.  This past weekend I watched my 5 year old son hit balls in a batting cage and went body surfing with my 2 girls in Lake Michigan.  Those are the memories I want to have of the summer and not get so caught up in work that time flies by.

What do you need to say “no” to?  How are you taking control of your life so you can enjoy what matters most?

Can I Kiss My Housekeeper?

Last night was the May meeting of the Social Media Club of Detroit.  This was my first meeting that I was able to attend and I’m so glad that I did!  The team brought in Gary Wohlfeill (@moosejawmadness), Creative Director at Moosejaw, a local outdoor clothing company that started in 1992 in Keego Harbor, MI and now with 7 stores total (including Chicago).

My first thought…wow, they get it.

I’d like to give you my takeaways from the meeting last night.  If you want the full recap, click here and read the notes Nikki Stephan (@estrellabella10) took and posted to SMCD Facebook page.  (Thanks Nikki!)

One of the first things Gary went over was the 3 key things Moosejaw focuses on to determine if what they are doing is good enough:

  1. Be notable – the stories that customers tell all their friends about
  2. Engage customers – it’s second nature to the company, they have been talking back to customers for years
  3. Orchestrate the brand voice

Moosejaw wants to talk to their customers.  Every marketing effort is focused on ensuring conversations begin with them.  It could be a funny text message…”I think my housekeeper wants to kiss me, can I do that?  Text me back and I’ll add 114 Moosejaw points to your account for help”…41% of recipients responded.  It could be a poll or survey.  Anything that will start a conversation.

More than anything, I walked away believing that brands need to have a personality.  Moosejaw likes to have fun with their customers.  They are generally willing to try anything to spark a conversation.  The web today allows for conversations to happen, even with a brand logo.  The trick is having that brand humanize itself.  People relate and converse with other people.  If you can get your brand to take on a personality, that allows relationships to be built.

It also helps that they have a loyalty program that rewards customers and gives them every opportunity to earn more points so they can redeem them for merchandise.

And one other thing…Gary responds to every e-mail he receives from a customer.  His thought is that if the customer took the time to write to him, he owes it to that customer to give a reply.  Yes, it’s time consuming but it shows that Moosejaw cares about the customers.

This is beyond Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.  This is their strategy.  Every decision involves the customer in some way.

So my thoughts automatically shifted to Buick and GMC.  Can we as a company take what Moosejaw has ingrained in their business culture and apply it to our business?  Do consumers see the personality of our 2 brands and can they relate to them?  Do we need to re-think our marketing and advertising strategy and adjust it so that customer experience and conversation is first and foremost at the front of everything we do?

I think yes.  Customers now have more control than they ever have.  The social web and word of mouth can be more impactful (both positively and negatively) to purchasing decisions and brand health.  So why not take care of the people that buy our products and give them a reason to talk positively about you?