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Archive for January, 2011

Don’t Fool Yourself!

Almost every day, I hear a business owner talking about how they resist or refuse to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter or other popular social media platforms.

And almost everyone of them suggests that social media is just a fad that will pass.

They are in good company.

Movie producer Darryl Zanuck predicted in 1946 that people would get tired of watching a television every night. Variety magazine predicted the death of rock and roll by June, 1955. Time magazine wrote off e-commerce in 1966, decades before it existed.

If you really think social media is not an important part of basic marketing today, you are fooling yourself.

There are tons of resources that will show you how to effectively use social media marketing, no matter what industry you are in. Start learning now. Find out what works and what doesn’t. And, most of all, establish at least a presence on all the popular platforms.

If you don’t have the time to learn it yourself, hire someone to fast-track your learning or handle it for you.

One word of caution: as with anything new, there are suddenly tons of so-called “gurus” out there. Make sure you at least ask around and try to identify the real experts from the charlatans before you spend any money,

Myths About Social Media That Need To Be Put To Rest

Social media gets a lot of attention these days. A lot of people make the choice to use social media for their business thinking that it’s going to bring in a lot of views, customers, subscribers whatever it is that you may want to achieve. The only way that will happen is if you social media the right way. Unfortunately, too many people are disappointed by the results of their social media efforts because they were misled by others to believe in the myths. So once and for all I want to put to rest some of the misguided information that is out there about social media.

Here are a few myths that I think need to be put to rest:

Myth #1 It’s A Great Place To Broadcast

John Maxwell said “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.”  This quote definitely rings true in social media. Everyone wants to be heard and many people are constantly fighting to shout the loudest, but none of that matters because once again it comes back to the listening factor. How do you expect people to care about what you’re saying, if to begin with, you never cared about them? Instead of using social media as a place to broadcast your message about how great your company is and how you have the best product out there a better approach would be to have conversations with people who have the same interest as you, people who you can help and of course you must be willing to provide something of value. That is what attracts people and using this strategy will get you a lot further than trying to be the person who shouts the loudest.

Myth #2 Automation Tools Work

Using an automated tool is not the key to success with social media. Instead automated tools can actually hamper your ability to achieve your goals in social media. The best part about using a social media platform is being able to connect with real people on the other end.  If you choose to use an automated tool to automatically follow people, send them messages or send out the same generic response to everyone, many will find that as very unfavorable and as a result will choose to ignore you because obviously you are not there to listen and only care about your message. Social media is more about having real authentic communication with others and helping people without asking for their business in return.

Myth #3 It’s All About The Numbers

You don’t have to have thousands upon thousands of people following you on the social media platform you choose to have success. It’s more about the engagement that you have with those individuals that will help you reach your goals faster than trying to play the numbers game. You see a lot of people on social media who have 5,000 or 10,000 plus followers and likes, but nobody is paying attention to them. Sure at first this might seem like the way to go because it looks impressive to have that many followers or likes, but it’s more impressive to actually see the amount of people who are actually engaging with you on the social media platforms and seeing the number of people who have actually taken an interest in what you’re saying that matters the most.

Myth #4 Using Social Media When I Have Time Works

Being involved in social media takes time. It cannot be used as something you do when you have free time on your hands. Instead you need to devote time to social media every day or a certain amount of time every week. Simply put, if you do not make the effort to be on that social media platform people will not want to follow you, like you or connect with you. Consistency on the web is always a key to success.

Myth #5 It’s Easy, All I Need Is An Account

Nothing just magically happens, but for some reason a lot of people think that truly happens on the web. That simply all that is needed is to have an account and magically you’ll be rolling in the dough, but that is not so. Having an account is simply the first step. Next you need to identify the goals that you want to achieve with a timeframe in place in which you want to achieve them and identify a few tactics to help you reach those goals in the end.

Myth #6 I Have To Use One Of The Bigger Social Media Websites

No you don’t have to be on Twitter, you don’t have to be on Facebook and you don’t have to be on LinkedIn. However, this is what many people assume when they look to join a social media website. What would be better is to pick the social media website that best fits your strengths. So if you don’t buy into the whole microblogging, kind of texting platform that Twitter has you don’t have to do it. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful simply because you didn’t choose to use one of the bigger social medias that are out there. Maybe instead you’re more of a video person and you decide to use Vimeo or Ustream because it plays more of your strengths, than that’s where you need to be. It will benefit you more in the long run because you will be better at it since it is one of your strengths and as a result you’ll be more motivated to be involved there as well.

The P’s of PREMIUM Customer Experience

After having a great experience as a customer, do you ever sit back and ask yourself, what was it about that experience that made it so wonderful?   When I put some thought to it, I think it comes down to 6 P’s: Product, Price, Professionalism, Predictability, Promptness, and Personality.  All of which are important elements to consider if you want to drive sales and repeat customers to your business, so let’s dive into each:

Product

Simply stated, this is the foundation of your business.  When you offer a high quality product (or service) to customers, you’re giving them a reason to seek you out among the crowd.

Price

This is what brings people in the door.  When you offer a high quality product for a great value, it’s inevitable that you’re going to attract more customers.  Finding creative ways to offer great value at an affordable price, such as free shipping, gift wrapping, or taking extra steps to please your customers differentiates you from the competition.

Professionalism

Being professional in your conduct, implementing personal standards, and being responsive to customers is important if you want your business to be well received.   With the rise of social media, word travels quickly.  Customers will share their experiences with your business to their communities, so keeping a high level of professionalism in interactions and online presence will keep you out of murky water.

Predictability

This goes hand in hand with reliability.  Customers want to know what to expect when they order your product or service.  Executing on your word and delivering what your customers order is critical to keeping them happy.

Promptness

Getting your product (or service) out in a timely manner isn’t a luxury; it’s an expectation.  Imagine placing an order from Amazon and not receiving it within the time frame they promise.  Would you be disappointed or upset?  It’s easy to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to being prompt.  Perhaps you promise to ship your orders out 3 days after payment, but you surprise your customer by sending their order out immediately or expediting their shipment.  This is a simple way to “deliver WOW” to your customers.

Personality

Believe it or not, your personality plays a big role in gaining (or losing) sales.  Being friendly and approachable draws the right kind of attention to your work while being unfriendly and standoffish sends buyers running for the hills.  Be yourself, be genuine, and sales will follow

Prospecting 101: Get Your Name Out There!

A key component of getting clients for your business is to get your name out there. You can be the very best in your chosen profession, but if no one has ever heard of you, you won’t get very many clients.

It can be difficult to build a professional reputation for a new business. In this post, I’ll provide ten techniques that you can use to help establish yourself in your chosen field.

Why You Should Get Your Name Out There

Let’s face it, business is competitive. There are likely hundred, if not thousands, of businesses who offer services in your chosen field. You need some way to distinguish yourself from all of those other businesses who are you are competing with.

Getting your name out there makes your business a known brand. This gives you a competitive advantage. All other things being equal, when choosing between someone who they’ve heard of and another business who offers similar services, but is not known to them, most clients will choose the familiar business.

10 Techniques to Get Your Name Out There

Fortunately, today’s Internet tools make it easy for businesses to build an online brand for their business. Here are ten techniques that you can start to use today to get your name out there and bolster your reputation:

  1. Create a Blog. I’ve sung the praises of blogs for businesses before, and I’ll do it again. Sure, you can run a business without a blog, but blogs are relatively inexpensive so why would you want to? Build a blog, update it regularly, and drive some traffic to it.
  2. Guest Post. Whether or not you create your own blog, you can benefit from the blogs of others by submitting guest posts to popular blogs that are related to your business. Be sure to send your best content, since what you write will wind up representing your business.
  3. Give a Presentation. If you get the chance to speak before a business group about your profession, take it. Giving a good presentation is a great way to establish your expertise in your field. Be sure to include handouts with your contact information.
  4. Participate in Social Media. Having a social media circle is the hot new way for business people to network. The good news is that everyone can take part in social media. It costs nothing to set up a profile on most social media sites. Just remember to keep your participation professional.
  5. Be Interviewed. If you get a chance to take part in an interview for a blog or with a journalist, accept it. It is usually to your advantage to share your knowledge publicly and the interviewer may have larger audience that you would normally reach. If some of your contacts conduct regular interviews, you may be able to volunteer to be interviewed.
  6. Do a Webinar or Create a Podcast. Webinars and podcasts are two great techniques provide two more great opportunities for you to showcase your expertise. Just as in any other type of presentation, be professional and include your contact information.
  7. Join a Group. Luckily, the world is full of professional groups that you can join (both online and offline). Joining and becoming active in a group of like-minded professionals will not only help you to network, it may also allow you to access educational and job bank opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you.
  8. Take a Class. A classroom setting can often provide networking opportunities. This is especially true for offline classes where you meet face-to-face in a classroom setting. Plus, you can enhance your skills while getting to know others. Check your local colleges for evening classes.
  9. Write a Book. The Internet has made it easier than ever for professionals to get published. It’s relatively simple to create an eBook that highlights your experience and expertise. And once you have created an eBook, it can continue to generate leads for your business for months (maybe even years) to come.
  10. Leave Some Comments. A simple, but often overlooked means of getting your name out there, is to leave well thought out comments on popular blogs in your area. While this technique is similar to guest posting, you typically won’t have the hurdle of getting your comment accepted by the site owner. As long as you are respectful and professional, most blogs will publish your comment.

Stress Relief from the Social Media World!

Have you found yourself stressed out by maintaining your personal or small business Facebook or Twitter accounts? If so, you’re not alone. Many of the active social media users I know have gone through that feeling at one time.

This is actually a normal feeling. Anthropologist Amber Case talks about this during her presentation at a TedX event in Washington, DC. She compares our collective online profiles to having a “second self”:

“Whether you like it or not, you’re starting to show up online, and people are interacting with your second self when you’re not there. And so you have to be careful about leaving your front line open, which is basically your Facebook wall, so that people don’t write on it in the middle of the night — because it’s very much the equivalent. And suddenly we have to start to maintain our second self. You have to present yourself in digital life in a similar way that you would in your analog life. So, in the same way that you wake up, take a shower and get dressed, you have to learn to do that for your digital self. And the problem is that a lot of people now… have to go through two adolescencies. They have to go through their primary one, that’s already awkward, and then they go through their second self’s adolescence. And that’s even more awkward because there’s an actual history of what they’ve gone through online. And anybody coming in new to technology, is an adolescent online right now. And so it’s very awkward, and it’s very difficult for them to do those things.”

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help you get this “second self” under control so that it causes you less anxiety:

1.       Use lists – Just like in real life, you likely have some friends in social media that you interact with more than others. Both Twitter and Facebook will allow you to create lists that will help you manage people. I have special lists for different segments of my audience, as well as for those who are close to me.

2.       Hide content – Once you have a sizeable following on Facebook, your newsfeed can get overwhelming. Many people don’t realize that you can hide games or even certain people on their Facebook wall to cut through the noise. Here’s how.

3.       Set limits – One thing that helps some people tremendously is setting specific periods of time to tend to social media interactions. Others have more luck when they set specific times to NOT interact on social media. You can try each approach to see what works best for you.

4.       Know you don’t have to do it all – Some people feel like they need to look at every status update or tweet their friends and followers post. This is unrealistic. Just as you don’t have time to hear what everyone has to say all the time in your regular life, you can’t possibly follow what everyone has to say online. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t keep up with everything,

5.       Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your social media savvy friends.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Leveraging Location-Based Marketing

Small business owners have an opportunity to take advantage of several great technologies to broaden their local reach and position themselves as the big fish in their respective small pond.  I’m going to assume that most local businesses are listed with the three major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo).  Each of these platforms has local search embedded, to some extent, so you want to be able to take advantage of this free marketing platform.

To go one step beyond simple search, let’s take a look at ways you can proactively deliver your message to prospective customers based on their geographic location:

1)  Twitter

I just read an article this morning about a local bakery,  Sugar Coated Bakery, that has managed to thrive in this difficult economy even with the rising cost of ingredients like flour and sugar.  They have a Facebook page but no Twitter account listed on their site and I immediately thought of a product I read about last year,  Baker Tweet, which enables you to scroll through your list of baked goods and Tweet when a new batch comes out of the oven.  Also,  Advanced Twitter Search allows you to identify people based on their location, follow them and, hopefully, they’ll follow you back.

Give people the opportunity to friend, follow or like you in any way they choose and then make sure you keep the conversation going.

2)  Foursquare

Foursquare has defined the location-based marketing space by proving the value of building a participatory community as opposed to the more conversational platforms like Facebook.  This is a solution where you can reward your best customers and build an army of evangelists simply by letting them take part in your success.

This is one of the best ways to build loyalty and generate repeat business from your most loyal customers.

3)  Location-Based Advertising

If you’re having trouble building a following within social media platforms, help may soon arrive in the form of  location-based advertising from Twitter.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could reach your core demographic within 20 miles of your business with a very focused value proposition?  Foursquare has stumbled in their efforts to deliver location-based advertising options but maybe it’s a sign that their platform is best suited for DIY campaigns only.

Three big players all vying for your advertising dollars.  Let’s hope at least one of them comes up with a solution that delivers.

Switch the Style Up: Tips on How to Make Money in 2011

1. Get to know your customers

Banks have been doing this for years because they’re required to, but any business can use the same tools and techniques to know who they’re doing business with – a name, an address, phone, e-mail address, preferences, likes and dislikes, and so on. With even the most basic data points, you will gain insight into your customers and be able to tailor your goods and services to offer what they want and how they want it, developing deeper, more loyal, and ultimately more profitable relationships.

2. Create a customer referral program

Often your best source of new customers is your existing customers; with some basic knowledge of which customers are your best and most loyal (see above), you can ask them for referrals, cementing their loyalty by rewarding them with in-kind goods and services (they’ve already shown they love your stuff, you can reward them with discounts or special offers for their referrals). These programs really work, and they don’t have to be costly or time-consuming if done properly.

3. Share what you know

Like most of us, your customers feel better about buying a particular product or service if they know others are buying it and what they think about it. If you’re a retailer, chances are you have a tremendous amount of data on purchases from your POS system; if you have a website, you’re already gathering data on popular pages, downloads, items, and so on; other businesses will have similar troves of purchase data. Running simple analytics and sharing the results of those, in a high-level, anonymous way with customers (“did you know that 49 percent of our customers buy one of these 3 products?”) can provide customers with that extra little push they may need to make a purchase, visit you again, or refer a friend.

4. Break down barriers

Most organizations, whether not-for-profits, retailers, accounting firms, medical offices, business-to-business service providers, small or large, have silos – finance, marketing, sales, management, and so on. Often people in these silos don’t have much to do with one another – they just do their jobs and try not to concern themselves too much with what’s going on in the other silos (hey, they’re busy!).

However, this leads to a very fragmented view of the customer or no view of the customer at all; each different business function will have a different view of what’s important to the business and what customers look like. You need to break down barriers between different functions and stress a unified, holistic view of the entire customer relationship (as well as a business-wide focus on the customer as the most important purpose of your business – without customers, after all, there IS no business). It’s simple to get started, you don’t need complex, enterprise-wide systems – just reach out to other team members in other business areas and start the dialogue.

5. Don’t over-invest in technology – especially the wrong technology

Often, “customer intelligence” is wrongly perceived as requiring boatloads of investment in technology – and, especially, “magic bullet” solutions (like CRM systems, or MDM, or CIF – pick the acronym of your choice) that are sold by technology vendors hoping to convince you that their solution is the one and only thing you need to make all your customer intelligence dreams come true. This is just plain wrong: while technology is certainly important and an enabling factor in getting customer intelligence efforts off the ground, businesses often get carried away and invest in massive, enterprise-wide implementations that put the focus on the tools and technologies instead of on the customer.

Then, these technologies begin to drive the business and force managers, marketers, sales people and others who use them to fit their thinking about the customer and about the business into the procrustean bed of the technology – technology becomes a massive, expensive distraction rather than a valuable support mechanism. Instead, start with a clear focus on the customer, understand clearly the business processes needed to know and serve the customer, and implement enough of the appropriate technology so that the business doesn’t become a slave to the tools and lose what’s most important: the emphasis on the customer.