As a Karateka, I have learned to approach all obstacles in both personal and business life in the same way that I have approached obstacles in my martial arts training. First, breathe deeply, then watch and observe which obstacles you can knock over, climb over and which ones you need to go around.
I started my martial arts journey in my late forties. Keeping up with my less gray fellow students was challenging. The physical limitations of my aging frame brought on frustration and fatigue.
The more I seemed to struggle, the more my fellow students and instructors encouraged and supported me. Camaraderie in the Dojo (martial arts training studio) is built upon honor and mutual respect. The Dojo is a community of like-minded individuals with common goals interested in the wellness and growth of all members of their community.
Now, as a 50-something businessman, the re-engineering of how I communicate with my customers and prospects is very similar to my physical struggles I experienced in trying to keep up with younger people in the Dojo.
Years ago, I used to spend most of my time at work talking on the phone. The conversations would begin focused on the business at hand, but would many times stray into personal matters of family, friends or hobbies. These conversations would help me develop deeper personal relationships with my customers that enabled a trusted bond.
Today, it is hard (if not impossible) to get a customer on the phone. When you do, they usually say "Can you email it to me so I can look at it later?" or "I'll text you later". It is common for me now to communicate with my customers solely in the digital world. This is a tough transition for a guy that has been known to be a "Chatty Cathy".
Now, it isn't the physical limitation that brings on frustration and fatigue, but the fear of not understanding how this new world of communication works. The fear of being left behind trying to hold onto the old ways of communication.
So how do us folks that are a little gray communicate with customers and prospects? How do we join in the conversation? We must join them in the communities that they are active in such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Is it awkward at first...Oh yes, trust your bald headed 50-something year old author.
But you must go with the flow, resist the temptation of thinking you can get away without it. The future of human interaction is already here, don't let it pass you by.
Social Networks are where you will find the commonalities and the personal experiences your customers and prospects want to share with you. As my fellow Karatekas help me with my training, you must reach out to others to help you in the digital communities.
There are over 600,000,000 people on Facebook. You are bound to know a few. Ask your children, friends, or colleagues. It is not that hard - you learned to read, drive a car and use a microwave oven. You can learn how to use social networks.
The more I use social networks, the more I have learned how they connect me to the world around me. Okay, this might be a little creepy, but last week I saw a post from an old friend who just lost his younger brother at the early age of 41. He posted his brother's obituary on his Facebook page. I would have never heard about it otherwise.
Facebook first afforded me the knowledge that the event had happened. Then, it enabled me to respond to the event in a meaningful way. I was able to extend my personal condolences that helped me stay connected to an old friend that may have otherwise simply drifted away.
On the business side of life, I have been able to reach back using LinkedIn to connect with past customers and colleagues that may have moved to different cities or industries. These are people that I have already developed a relationship with and may recommend me or get me a meeting with someone I am trying to form a new connection with.
The journey will continue with the likes of Twitter, Stumpleupon, Yelp, Foursquare and on it goes.
I have to admit , I am a little nervous that Mike is going to ask me start "tweeting" very soon. It is true, the destination is the journey, and I'm ready to begin the Twitter journey to see how I can connect in a new way to others willing to share that experience with me.
How about you? What's preventing you from using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Leave a comment and let us know!