Wildflowers are at their peak in late summer in Ohio. As I walk along the trails near my home, I wonder if the wildflowers I consider to be beautiful are thought of as weeds to others passing by.
This difference in perception reminds me of a story a friend talked about recently involving his experience with a company.
Prior to losing his job, he worked at only a handful of other companies during his 40 years in business. He last job-hunted when resumes were sent by mail or hand-delivered. He never considered the idea of building a positive, one-on-one relationship with a company to be outdated.
A recent telephone interview he had with a corporate recruiter ended with her comment, “I will call you with the result, either way.” After some time passed without hearing anything, my friend tried various ways to contact her. Since he didn’t have her direct phone number, he decided to call the company’s main number. He asked to speak with the recruiter and was told, “We do not forward calls to the HR department from people applying for work. She will call you back if more information is needed.”
Imagine a customer service representative from your company telling a prospective client: “Don’t call us; we’ll call you if we need you.”
It’s understandable with the number of unemployed workers these days, that companies use online means to filter candidates. And, granted, most job candidates understand the new rules (if your follow up e-mails are ignored long enough you’ll eventually take the hint). However, when your company does get that occasional call or person stopping by, wouldn’t you want to leave them (a potential customer) with a better impression? How did this company brand itself with my friend? Not only was he put off by this experience, he told everyone he knows.
Social media is all about building customer relationships and is the digital equivalent of word of mouth. We’ve seen how it can enhance a company’s brand or just as easily create a public relations nightmare. We all know bad news travels fast. We also know that word of mouth is now real-time information spread via social media channels. It is a steeper slope to reverse public perception of a company branded as a weed.
In short, anyone who calls on your business is a potential customer, and should be thought of as a relationship opportunity, not a problem.
This concept brings to mind a similar blog post by Seth Godin entitled “All I do is work here.” Employees don’t often see themselves as branding the company’s image to passersby. It’s easier for an employee to claim, “I just get a paycheck …” than to take any real responsibility for protecting their company’s brand.
As Seth so aptly put it, “You don’t just represent them, you ARE them.”
Considering the power of social media tools and the transparency of business these days, how do you want virtual passersby to brand your company — as a wildflower, or a weed?