I recently had a call with Shashi Bellamkonda, VP of Digital Marketing at The Bozzuto Group. Shashi, who recently left Network Solutions after twenty years, talked with me about his previous role and what his new role will entail. He also shared three things that he focused on as he prepared to enter his new role – three things that he feels every business owner should be thinking about.
During his time at Network Solutions, Shashi said that he felt like he changed roles / jobs every three to four years: from customer service, to product management to product marketing. Then came social media, which Shashi immediately took an interest in and convinced Network Solutions that they should venture into as a new way of talking to their customers. With that, Shashi took over the social media role and spent his last many years overseeing their social media efforts: building a community and handling their contact marketing.
In his new role as VP of Digital Marketing at Bozzuto Group, which is a privately held integrated real estate services organization, Shashi will be concentrating his efforts on bolstering their digital presence so that more people think of them when they want an apartment in the mid-Atlantic region.
In preparation for this new role, Shashi stressed how important it was for him to take time to disconnect from everything and use this time to think about his new role prior to beginning. Shashi highly recommends ‘disconnecting’ to everyone, as it’s the best time to think clearly. During this time of thought, Shashi kept thinking about three things:
- Look at who your existing customers are and how you can get them to refer more business to you.
- Think about all of the people who may be searching for you online and if they are not able to locate you, or you don’t have a solid online reputation, then they are most likely going to find a competitor
- What are the ‘talk-able’ stories that you could be saying about your business?
Shashi points out that these three points are relative to every business owner, not just someone coming into a new role. It’s imperative that you know who your customers are, because in doing so you’ll know how to better service them, which will organically lead to them referring your business to their friends.
As for point #2, Shashi says, “I think we are in an age of visible strangers, in a way. We tend to believe what people write, and most of the time it is believable, because people go out to businesses, they review products, and they go to SmallBizTechnology.com to check out the reviews there; so its peer reviews or people similar to you reviewing products. It has certainly become the big thing right now.”
Shashi points out, “The lesson to businesses is if people are posting something online about your business, it is almost like an email to you. Hopefully most of the time it is good, but if it is bad, it is an opportunity for you. Having a bad review is not the end of the world, and I always recall this statement from a chef friend of mine in the DC area. He said, ‘look I use it as an opportunity. 1.) If there is something wrong that what we did in the business, we correct it. 2.) If it’s something that was very poor to this customer and we can fix it the next time they come, we tell them that. Ask the customer to come back and tell them we will make it right for you, and people like that. People want to be heard’.”
Point three is one of the most difficult for most businesses, Shashi points out and I tend to agree; but it’s really quite simple. A ‘talk-able’ story is ANYTHING about your business that people are talking about.
As an example, Shashi notes, “We visited a restaurant in D.C. called Indique Heights. They have a menu item that’s called Meen Fry, it is like a French fry from the South of India and I know this because I used to be a chef in my previous life. But two to three people actually had a conversation online about this particular dish, so that’s the ‘talk-able’ part of this. What the business owner should now be doing is using social media to point out this ‘talk-able’ point, with posts like ‘love Meen Fry’ and use the hash tag #spicyconversation or ‘hey people who come to my restaurant like Meen Fry, maybe you would too’.
Many people come to me and say ‘What should I write about in my blog’ or ‘I don’t know what to Tweet about or what to post on social media’. As Shashi points out, both of these questions are answered with the same item: focus on those ‘talk-able’ points. He suggests that businesses not shy away from telling everyone about their good quality – they should be proud of what their product is and tell people about it. This doesn’t mean you over-sell to them, but noting stories from customers who had positive experiences, or gave you positive comments, is the best way to spread the word.
Shashi has given us some great advice on what, as business owners, we need to be thinking of in reference to our customers and online footprint. As obvious and simple as these three things may be, they need to remain in the forefront of our thinking as small business owners. And while the examples are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for every business, the core principle of each is.
When was the last time you unplugged and thought about any of these items for your business? Let us know in the comments.
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