Do CEOs fear social media?

August 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

I would like to challenge the underlying assumption that the digital age is “scary to those who have done business the old way their entire careers.”

Everyone alive today has experienced rapidly accelerating change. There are broad, generational trends, but each of us makes choices about how we will use new ideas, new technologies, new media, new products, and when. For the most part, businesspeople look for a return on their investment of money and time.

I got my start as a Vistage speaker in the mid-90s, it was called TEC in those days. My presentation focused on the marketing implications of the internet. At that point in time, few TEC members used email.

I remember one guy in the Silicon Valley area who sat through the first 90 minutes of my presentation slouched in his chair with arms folded and a black cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes. Just before the break, I asked him to describe his business and his customers.

He looked out from under his hat, but kept his arms tightly folded and told me he was in the commercial landscaping business. His crews mowed lawns, trimmed bushes, and maintained sprinkler systems for Intel, Cisco, HP, Apple, and many others. He said that his office staff used computers for scheduling and billing, but the internet wasn’t important to him.

I asked if he thought the internet was important to his customers… and if they might prefer to do business with vendors who used the internet to add value to their services.

After the break, he took off his hat, sat up straight, and played an active role in the discussion. One of his group members suggested he could offer a way to report broken sprinkler heads (or other “emergency” situations) via his website. Another said he might post a maintenance schedule and introduce key crew members on special client-focused pages.

What they didn’t do was insult him for not being on the bleeding edge. They didn’t accuse him of being old school or obsolete. He had a successful company. He knew that his time was valuable and spent it doing things that gave him a return on his investment.

He was doggedly determined not to let some “expert” tell him to waste time on some crazy new technology. Until, in the middle of a half-day workshop, he realized that his customers might prefer to do business with a vendor who used THEIR technology to add value to his services.

Ken Sethney [marketing coach]

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Entry filed under: coaching, generational marketing, marketing, marketing coach.

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