I was at Walgreens the other day and I noticed that the young woman who rang up my birthday card, shampoo and toothpaste was wearing a name tag that read:
Susan, Beauty Consultant. I also noticed that Susan had chipped electric blue fingernails, multiple rings on all of her fingers, mellow yellow teeth, too many piercings that were visible and my guess is that she also had too many more that weren’t as well. I looked at her tag again and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if I should consult with her on that nagging beauty question that I have.” Then I looked at her fingernails again when she held out her hand to take my money and told me the total amount of my purchase in between the click clicking of her chewing gum, and I thought, “Nah, I’ll seek a consultation elsewhere.”
I was watching a commercial the other day for a local furniture store, and the staff, instead of being referred to as sales associates, were referred to as design consultants. My guess is that the likelyhood that any of these consultants attended design school is pretty slim. What type of design would that be, designing a methodology for getting me to buy a chair from them?
I went into a store to return something and noticed that instead of a customer service desk, they had a “guest services” desk. Apparently I am no longer considered a customer in the store, I am now a guest. Does that mean they’ll serve me a nice homemade dinner with a glass of wine or put me up in a fully appointed room for the night? Really, I just wanted to return a t-shirt.
Consultants, Designers, Guests. I’m getting confused, but have come to realize that there are designers and “designers,” there are consultants and “consultants,” and there are guests and “guests.” Just in case you all are wondering, I’m a writer not a “writer.”
A few weeks back, this direct mail piece came addressed to me from Dish Network. It features a picture of an olive-skinned and black haired beauty on the front and handsome dark haired, stubble-bearded man on the back. Beyond that, I cannot tell you what it says because it’s written in Arabic. My husband and I first had a little chuckle about it, but the longer this piece sat on my desk, the more it bothered me. It appears that it was sent to me because of the ethnicity of my last name, however I have a distinctly Armenian name, not Arabic. Although Armenia is in the general area of many Arabic speaking nations, Armenians actually do not speak Arabic as their native language; they speak Armenian. Different culture, different language and different alphabet altogether.
I found out that Dish Network is on Twitter, so I quickly tweeted them asking to be connected to someone in their marketing department to discuss an issue. I swiftly got a tweet back saying that I should DM them with the specific issue so that they can be sure to “connect me with the right person.” As succinctly as possible in 140 characters, I stated that I was offended by being ethnically targeted with a direct mail piece and wanted to discuss it with someone. Silence. A day passed and I sent them another DM, asking to please be connected to someone who could discuss this with me. Silence. I went to their web site, found a customer service email address and sent a message explaining the situation in detail, why it bothered me, and again asked to be connected to someone who could address this with me. Silence.
So here’s what’s so wrong with this entire scenario from a marketing, customer service and social media perspective:
1. If a company is going to send out a direct mail piece, then they better be darn sure they know who they are targeting.
2. Making an ill-informed assumption that someone with a name from a certain ethnic group speaks a certain language is wrong for several reasons. In my case:
- Armenians aren’t native Arabic speakers. Some Armenian may speak Arabic, but that’s not typical. Clumping everyone with heritage from that region of the world into a general category of Middle Eastern and making assumptions based on that, negates the richness of Armenian culture and the myriad of other cultures that grew from that region.
- I am a 2nd generation Armenian-American. Not only do I not speak or read Arabic, but I do not even speak Armenian (except for a few words like girl, yogurt, dog and how are you) and can’t read it at all. I happen to speak and read English as my native language.
- For all the Dish Network marketers know, I may not even be Armenian. I could be from any ethnic group, and simply married to someone with an Armenian name.
- Even if my heritage were from an Arabic speaking culture, why would it be assumed that I speak and read Arabic?
3. If a company has a presence in social media, then they are essentially inviting people to contact them with comments, suggestions or problems. If a consumer does contact them via social media with a problem, then they are obliged to answer. What’s the point of being there if they don’t? To just have the appearance of being accessible?
4. If a company tells someone that they will connect them with the “right” person, then should connect them with the right person, not just ignore them.
5. If a company has a contact email on their website and someone takes the time to contact them, explain a problem, and ask for assistance, then they should respond to them, not just ignore them.
Yes, I admit, this post is a bit of a rant, but I am angry that I have been targeted and profiled in this way. I am angry that I tried to contact Dish Network to discuss this and was even invited to do so. But instead of offering me some kind of response, they chose to ignore me instead.
Moral of the story:
1. Direct mail campaigns based on ethnic or racial profiling are probably not a good idea.
2. If a consumer has a problem or complaint, then it’s probably a good idea for the company to respond (in English).
You all know the scene: Dorothy and her three friends return to Oz with the broom in hand after a harrowing near-death experience dealing with the witch and all those flying monkeys, only to have Toto pull back the curtain and expose the wizard as the charlatan that he truly was. In our world filled with online gurus of all types and sizes popping up on Twitter, LinkedIn and the Internet in general, it’s important for businesses to know how to smell the difference between the real deal and a faker. With the ease of self-promotion that comes with using the Internet also comes the ease for anyone to claim guru status in order to try to win business.
Here are a few red flags and tips on how to be sure that you are working with someone who knows what they are doing:
Using the word “guru” to describe oneself
In its original form, guru was not a self-proclaimed title. It was something bestowed upon a religious leader who was thought to have power, knowledge and insight into God to guide followers from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. I don’t think they were talking about Twitter followers. If anyone describes themselves as a guru in their bio, I suggest running the other way.
Is the walk the same as the talk?
I came across a blog the other day that is a great illustration of this point. Calling this site a blog really was a bit of a stretch because there were only a few entries over the course of several months and they all were brief announcements promoting speaking engagements this person had lined up to impart his wisdom on how to build business through the use of blogging and social networking. The only problem was that right next to the post was that little blue box announcing that he had 4 feed subscribers and a little blue bird announcing that he had 58 followers on Twitter. None of his posts had comments or Re-Tweets. Looking at his Twitter feed, all his Tweets were link backs to his “posts” on his blog promoting his speaking engagements. Now would you trust that this guy holds any wisdom regarding how to build business through social media? Don’t think too long on that one.
That’s what Google is for….
It may sound obvious, but Google search the person’s name or business and take a look at the results. Hop on LinkedIn and take a look at the profile. See what the person’s credentials are or what he or she has done in the past. You can tell a lot about a person with a couple of clicks.
The proof is in the pudding
On the Internet people can claim to be a writers, designers, social media specialists, web designers, or business advisors. Heck, some people even claim to be 16-year-old girls but turn out to be 50-year-old men. It’s up to you to know for sure with whom you are dealing. Ask to see a portfolio of work or references from previous clients. If the only thing a supposed marketing guru has ever marketed is the marketing of his or her own marketing guru-ness, then beware. You be the judge.
You get what you pay for
To a certain degree, this statement is absolutely true. It’s not necessarily true that the more expensive someone is, the better, but I can guarantee you that anyone who is willing to write some copy for you for $20, design a logo for you on spec, or suggest a tag line for your business for free on LinkedIn is not going to be providing you with great results. Pay fast food salary (or no salary at all) and you’re guaranteed to get work at the caliber of a squished hamburger and floppy fries or less. Do a little research to find out what the going rate is for high quality work and negotiate from there.
Size doesn’t always matter
With crafty methods of getting more followers on Twitter, don’t always think that the more followers someone has guarantees a higher level of expertise. I actually get the opposite feeling sometimes when someone has an exorbitant number of followers…it makes me think SPAM. Remember, Charles Manson had a lot of followers too.
Money, that’s what I want
Another red flag is the use and overuse of the dollar sign and images of piles of money on someone’s Twitter background, blog or website. If money is the primary concern of the message, then losing yours should be your primary concern.
Finding great talented people to accomplish what you need help with is actually pretty simple. When you are looking to hire someone to work on a project for you, use common sense. Do your homework, understand the going rate and maybe most importantly, trust your instincts.