Slingshot SEO Co-founder: It’s All About Relationships

Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO is a company making a splash nationwide, and its co-founder Jeremy Dearringer authored a very informative column for Inc. The message serves as a great reminder to businesses not get so bogged down in your "mission" that you forget what customers value most — relationships. He also offers some ways to leverage social media tools to make that happen.

Relationships. In business, that single word may be the most important.

Genuine relationships were the foundation of our partnership. This helped us earn the trust of our first few clients, which in turn provided us with mentors to help avoid the common pitfalls of start-ups, created strong advocates for us in the business community, and motivated early employees to take a chance on working with us. And that’s just the beginning.

Recently, at Slingshot SEO, by request of our new CEO, we dove into exploring factors that led clients to renew at the end of their 12-month contracts. We put together a task force including the three founders, the director of SEO performance, and the VP of client success. During our first meeting, members of our leadership team suggested seemingly obvious answers like ROI and ranking results. Not satisfied, we decided to dig deeper. We brainstormed a list of possible factors, surveyed our client success teams and their clients, analyzed results, and sifted through Salesforce data.

Over a month later, our report concluded that the No. 1 reason clients renew with us: strong relationships.

While results and ROI are elements we focus on for every client, these factors placed second to a positive relationship. Some clients, despite witnessing amazing campaign results and phenomenal ROI, opted out of renewing due to lack of a strong relationship or bond with our team. Others failed to renew because our champion within the client organization moved on.

With our newfound understanding about the importance of relationships, we now ask ourselves, how do we build these strong connections? How do we maximize the benefits of them?

Most successful entrepreneurs quickly realize that time is one of their most valuable assets. Forging and maintaining strong business relationships while trying to run a business can be extremely challenging. Often our personal lives suffer as a result, much like in the movie CLICK, featuring Adam Sandler, which hit so close to home that it brought tears to my eyes.

Fortunately, the advent of smart phones and social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook has allowed us to expand the number of people we can effectively maintain a relationship with. I once heard that the typical number of people you can truly maintain a solid relationship with is somewhere between 150-250. Generally, this number is displayed by how many people will come to your wedding or funeral.

I’ve found that staying in touch with business contacts via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter has reduced the number of in-person meetings required to keep relationships fresh. This practice is extended company wide. At Slingshot SEO, we use Twitter to socially interact with and support our clients, supplementing more standard communication such as in-person meetings, conference calls and email.

Networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter are especially useful, as they also allow you to influence your networks’ perceptions of your key contacts. Leaving recommendations on LinkedIn or custom, personal FollowFriday suggestions on Twitter are a couple of ways to earn relationship karma. You can also leverage these social networks to forge and strengthen relationships by jumping into public conversations and answering questions related to your expertise. A simple tweet, retweet or comment on these social networks can help keep your name in front of your contacts.

Technology Proves Too Distracting for Many

Avoiding distractions at work has almost become a job unto itself. An online survey (wouldn’t this contribute to the lack of focus on the task at hand) of IT users at U.S. and global companies revealed the following:

  • The majority (57%) of work interruptions now involve either using collaboration and social tools like e-mail, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions.That hour per day translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person per year, assuming an average salary of $30/hour.
  • That is more than the average U.S. driver will spend this year to own and maintain a car, according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA). That means that for businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year.   The actual cost of distraction is even higher in terms of negative impacts on work output, work quality, and relationships with clients and co-workers.
  • The increasingly common addiction to web-based activity – which psychologists call ‘online compulsive disorder’ – is pervasive in the workplace.  For example, two out of three people will tune out of face-to-face meetings to communicate digitally with someone else.  The addiction is also taking over people’s personal lives.  Case in point:  the majority of people under the age of 40 stay digitally connected in bed, and 44% of people under 30 stay connected during a night out at the movies.
  • Two-thirds of companies and technology users are pursuing tools and strategies to minimize digital distractions, reflecting an understanding of the need to restore productivity that is being sapped by misuse of digital applications.


Taking Business Elsewhere: Wal-Mart Gets Into Social Networking

Interesting report from PR Daily about Wal-Mart’s new venture into social media. While Facebook and Twitter are currently tools of commerce for some businesses, it seems Wal-Mart expects the platform to become an even bigger force for sales:

Walmart and social media?

It seems an unlikely pairing, but the retail giant has signed an agreement to purchase Mountain View, Calif.-based social media startup Kosmix for a cool $300 million.

Founders Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman and the Kosmix team will operate as part of the new @WalmartLabs and continue to be based in Silicon Valley.

According to a press release, Walmart plans to expand @WalmartLabs. I imagine it will be tasked with Walmart’s cache of discounted products, available for purchase via every piece of Internet-accessible hardware on the planet.

Business Insider sees it as more of a move toward social commerce:

“The bottom line is that social commerce is starting to turn into a reality. People are turning to social networks more and more to decide on what to buy, and the businesses who are on the forefront of that trend will reap a windfall.”

Awesome. Now I’ll have official Facebook confirmation that my friend’s mom likes tchotchkes, Americana art, and cute outfits for her dog.

Thanks, Kosmix.

“Mooooooom, Grandma Won’t Get Off the Computer!”

A survey from the AARP shows further evidence that what you thought you knew about social networking might be wrong. While much has been made about how pervasive middle-aged Americans are on Facebook and Twitter, it seems 50-64 year-olds are also "LOLing" and "OMGing"  with each other on the fabulous Interwebs.  Reuters Life! reports:

Social networking isn’t only for the under 40s. More than 25 percent of Americans 50 years and older stay connected using sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, according to new research.

And nearly half of older adults, aged 50 to 64, say they are savvy about the Internet.

"The latest data tells us that more and more, social networking is becoming a part of everyday life for Americans 50 plus, and boomers in particular," said Kevin Donnellan, the chief communications officer at AARP, which released the report.

The powerful lobbying group for older Americans said Facebook is by far the most popular networking site, followed by MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Nearly a quarter of older Americans are on Facebook and 73 percent said they use it to stay in touch with relatives, but not just their children and grandchildren.

The Holidays are Here — So Start Networking!

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with reciting famous lines from "A Christmas Story" at holiday parties. Or declaring that you’ve just tasted the world’s best Eggnog. But, don’t forget to add a little business talk to the mix by networking.

A national business consultant offers several tips for putting a networking twist on your holiday celebrations. Here are a few:

  • Have a plan of action before you go. Find out who will be attending the event. Do some research online or on social networking sites like LinkedIn to learn about attendees. Pick five people with whom you definitely want to speak while you are there, and don’t avoid the big names. 
  • Let them do the talking (you ask the questions!)
  • Be prepared to pitch yourself in 15 seconds. Think about what’s unique about what you have done. Be sure that whomever you speak with will still remember you at the end of the night.
  • The party may end, but your connection shouldn’t. Cement your connections by creating a database that allows you to keep track of all the connections you’ve made. Include interesting or remarkable things people said or that you learned so you can refer back to them in later conversations. And be sure to use social media to keep in touch.

Make Sure You’re Connected

Reuters Life! takes a look at the growing use of social networking. While the growth is not surprising — the rate of growth might be. Nearly doubling over the past year? Wow:

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Spending more time on social networks and blogs? You’re not alone, with the latest figures showing the number of minutes spent on social networking sites in the United States has almost doubled over the past year.

Nielsen Online, which measures web traffic, said the number of minutes on social networks in the United States rose 83 percent in April from the same month a year ago, but found users were quick to move on and sites could quickly fall from favor.

Nielsen Online spokesman Jon Gibs said a major trend had been the continuing popularity of Facebook, which has more than 200 million active members and has become so mainstream it now hosts Pope Benedict and a list of world leaders.

The total number of minutes spent on Facebook surged 700 percent year-on-year to 13.9 billion in April this year from 1.7 billion a year ago, making it the No. 1 social networking site for the fourth consecutive month.

News Corp’s MySpace was second most popular but the number of minutes spent on this site fell 31 percent to 4.97 billion from 7.3 billion a year ago, although it remained the top social networking site when ranked by video streams.

Blogger, and came third, fourth and fifth respectively, with the number of minutes spent on Twitter — that lets people send 140-character messages or Tweets — rocketing 3,712 percent in April from a year ago.

Hat tip to the Chamber’s Tim Brewer for the link.