Archive for the ‘Online Marketing’ Category

#3: Get Fast Feedback – 10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Social Media has the potential to better educate you, the small business owner, in your daily decision making process. As a business owner you can receive free input on how people are reacting to your services through Social Media.

Everything online happens at the speed of light. Decisions that used to take weeks or months now take a matter of mere minutes or seconds. There is no time for group consensus nor is there time to “sleep on it” either. But with your Social Media Network, you can still get input from a number of people very quickly. There are literally millions of people on-hand, ready and able to give you feedback in an instant.

For example, want to know if the font on your homepage is too small? Send a tweet with the page link and ask what the general public thinks. Wondering which header graphic better conveys your business? Post them both on your Facebook page and ask for input.

These are some of the benefits of turning to your Social Media Network for advice:

  • You’ll get an interesting cross-section of respondents: friends from high school, curious passers-by, and coworkers.
  • It’s fast. Depending on the size of your network, you could have responses within minutes.
  • It’s free. You don’t have to pay a penny for the input.
  • It’s informal. No need to prepare a five-paragraph overview, a ten-slide PowerPoint presentation, or other background information. Just ask and wait for the input.
  • It’s objective. The people you’re asking have little or no vested interest in the outcome.

Of course, this method is better for some queries than others. There are some drawbacks you need to keep in mind:

  • You have no control over the responses or who they come from. You might receive input from people who aren’t part of your target audience or who offer goofy suggestions.
  • By soliciting opinions, you can make people feel like they have ownership in the process. In other words, if you don’t take their advice, they might feel slighted.
  • You make some of the inner workings of your business public.

As a result, soliciting fast feedback via Social Media Networks is best for the following situations:

  1. When the decision is relatively minor. You don’t want to ask the general public what you should do about selling your business, or responding to a lawsuit, or customer service issues.
  2. When the results will be public anyway. If the decision is behind-the-scenes, keep it there. Our examples above – font size, header graphics – are public anyway. Don’t post private information or anything that might breach confidence.
  3. When you need a variety of opinions from different people. If you need feedback from a certain segment, you’re better off emailing them directly rather than putting out a public call for feedback.

Your Social Media Networks can serve as your own personal focus groups. Asking their opinion can also make them feel closer to your business and part of the process – both good things!

In our next installment we will discuss how you can learn valuable information about your customers through Social Media.

#2 Get Answers to Your Burning Questions – 10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

This is the second installment in our series called “10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time.” In this issue we will explain how Social Media can be used to answer your customers’ questions and ultimately further educate them about your services.

It used to be that all answers to your questions could be found on Google. Then, when Google became overrun with junk sites and advertisements, Wikipedia became the guru of choice. But even Wikipedia won’t give you the answer to every question you have. Sometimes the information is too arcane, or sometimes you don’t want the facts; rather, you want an opinion. So what better place to turn to than Social Media?

Social Media is great for answering any of the following types of questions:

1. Opinions. Heading to New York and want to know where to find authentic New York pizza? Wikipedia won’t help you and Google is full of sponsored ads. So instead of doing a fruitless search, post a query on your Facebook page, and within hours your friends and followers will have chimed in with a variety of suggestions, depending on your appetite, allergies, and budget.

When you want an opinion or suggestion, ask your Social Media Network. They tend to enjoy giving help and assistance, and the resulting information may be more appropriate to your circumstance than a review written by a nameless, faceless entity.

2. New Technology Questions. Your brand-new video camera won’t boot up after the last charge. You could spend an hour or two on the manufacturer’s website, searching the FAQ pages for an answer. You could Google the problem, but all the answers you find are for the previous model. So you send out a plea for help from the “Tweetiverse,” and within minutes you have a handful of suggestions, as well as sites to go to for expert help.

Google often doesn’t help much with tech questions because there either aren’t enough answers out there to make it to the first page of the search results, or the resulting pages are all scams, junk sites, or sponsored posts for services that will fix your camera for a fee. That’s why you can often save time by asking your Social Network first.

3. References and Referrals. Looking for a great handyman in Cherry Hill can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can go through the Yellow Pages or check online, but are any of these guys any good? To know for sure you need a personal reference or referral, and that’s where your social media network can really help out. Post a Facebook query or tweet it out there, and you’ll get answers that will steer you in the right direction.

We often think of Social Media as a way to just hang out with our friends and colleagues, but it is actually one of the greatest examples of the wisdom of crowds. Take advantage of it, and save time, too.

In the next post we will discuss how a small business can use Social Media to receive fast feedback from customers.

#1 Connecting With Customers – 10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Social Media has become one of the greatest assets a small business has. Social Media gives small businesses the power to connect and educate their consumers free of charge, an ability that until recently was restricted to large corporations with a large PR budget. However, despite the power of Social Media, many small businesses have not yet taken advantage of this tool. Time is the most valuable asset small business owners have, and they are far from ready to ‘waste’ it on Social Media.

At 3wCommunications we understand how valuable your time is; we also understand the value of Social Media and what it can do for your company. In order to help you take advantage of the power of Social Media, we will be posting 10 articles on how small business can use Social Media to save time. Each article will lead into the next and ultimately provide a formula for how best to utilize Social Media in your business. The following is the first article from this series.

When most small business owners hear the words “Social Media,” their first thought is that it’s a waste of time. Facebook is the place you go to play Farmville while your boss isn’t looking. YouTube is where you head when you have five minutes to spare and need a good laugh so you watch the “Jackass” video a few more times. Twitter is where you end up when you want to commiserate about the Phillies’ latest trade decisions, or to catch up on Real Housewives or New Jersey gossip.

Is it possible that these sinkholes of productivity could actually save you time? Yes, and in this report we’re going to show you 10 ways to leverage Social Media to make your life better, complete your tasks more quickly, and have more time for the things that matter (like a Plants vs. Zombies marathon – just kidding!).

These days, business is all about relationships. We buy a car from the guy our neighbor’s brother recommended. We hire the contractor our mother’s accountant used. We go see the movies that everyone on Twitter talks about. So finding ways to take business relationships beyond transactional is a sure-fire way to cement yourself in the minds of your customers or clients.

Social Media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and the like – are all ways to connect with people. And if you can use these tools to establish and enhance your relationships with your audience, you’ve got a leg up on your customers. Here are a few examples:

  • The yarn store owner who tweets her new customer to ask how the new sweater is coming along…
  • The car salesman who leaves a link for $10 off an oil change on a customer’s Facebook wall…
  • The homeschool curriculum vendor who records a short video showing how to set up a classroom in the home in a back bedroom…
  • The golf instructor who holds a Skype party during the Masters…

The possibilities are as vast as the world of Internet business. You will notice some commonalities between the ideas above:

    1. 1. They’re relevant. They are directly applicable to the niche or industry you’re in (the golf instructor, for instance, isn’t sending out oil change coupons; the yarn store owner isn’t hosting a Masters chat).

 

    1. 2. They’re personal. Each interaction connects with the audience in a manner beyond a simple “buy my stuff” way.

 

    1. 3. They’re useful. Each interaction provides value to the recipient. In some cases, it’s a dollar savings (the coupon); in others, it’s information (the video and the sweater inquiry). And even the Skype party is useful in terms of entertainment. The recipient is better off for having taken part in the interaction.

 

    1. 4. They’re free. They don’t cost anything to the small business owner.

 

    1. 5. They’re relatively low on the time-investment scale. A tweet or Facebook post takes seconds; the video, a bit longer, actually saves time in the long run as the vendor is answering a question he or she receives over and over again. The Skype party takes place during an event the golf instructor was going to watch anyway.

 

As you can see, Social Media provides ways to reach your customers on an intimate level quickly and inexpensively. People want to be treated as individuals, not as numbers, and Social Media provides a way to do that without spending your whole life on the phone.

Social Media also has the power to educate your customers with little cost to you, which is the subject of our 2nd article in this series, 10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time.

How to eMarket to Your Small Business Customers – Best Practices for Deliverability

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Email. The very word itself represents communication coupled with speed. One of the most transforming manifestations in our lifetime. The push of a button transmits our words to a personal target of one, or a larger audience of many. If you’re email marketing to your customers, prospects, members or subscribers, rising postal rates are irrelevant, and there’s no concern for postal permits, bar codes, indicias, or printing and mail house costs.

Therein Lies the Challenge

As you inch across that relationship tightrope in a make or break alliance with your customers – those people you already have a relationship with – email marketing can be a cost-effective and powerful way to building and maintaining the edge you need. It’s not only about cost, however, as it’s also, simply, the most effective channel to remaining in front of this vital audience. That’s what email marketing is all about.

There are caveats, of course, included alongside any innovation and email marketing is no exception. It’s a blessing, certainly, because of its low cost and ease of use to your customers and the rest. But because of its low cost, there’s no limit to what you and every other entity can send. Your customers’ inbox, as a result, is a toxic overload of messages and all are competing with yours. A challenge indeed.

So What to Do?

As you deal with the dilemma of spam filters, there is no doubt that your customers aren’t pleased with an overload of messages for products and services they don’t need. So how do you get your message through to them?

Well, the good news is that your customers want to hear from you. They want value from you so your messages need to be important, well-targeted, and provide a content-rich experience. Plus, there’s the challenge of unequivocal compliance with anti-spam mechanisms. It’s an important integrated mix of elements that need addressing, or else your message to your own customer will be intercepted and spam filter-bound.

Deliverability

By any means, this is not an exclusive rendering, but a few deliverability elements you should initially ponder. There’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before, but as a legitimate eMarketer, give serious consideration to these best practices to improve your overall email marketing effectiveness. Or else!

Permission – I know you know this, but remember to confirm with the people on your list that they’ve actually requested to be on it. When your customers or prospects say they want future email from you, allow them to confirm (or verify) their request. It’s just good practice.

The list – You should regularly remove undeliverable addresses, as Internet Service Providers (ISP) track the percentage of undeliverable emails to certain addresses within a period. They could block other messages if you continue to do the same.

Trusted sender – Encourage your recipients to put your “From Address” into their address book, trusted sender list, or approved sender list. As a trusted sender or contact, your email will be delivered and remain exempt from anti-spam measures.

Language – Stay away from using language and tactics that look like spam to a content-based spam filter (especially in your Subject line).

You should avoid:

a) Spam-like words/phrases such as – free… guarantee… credit card… income… call now, etc.

b) All caps – This dramatically increases the likelihood of being filtered.

c) Certain punctuation – It’s not grammatically correct to begin with, but stop with the !!! and ??? as this tactic can trip the filter.

d) Symbols – If describing currency in your email marketing campaign, use $ and not $$.

CAN-SPAM Compliance – Do a legal review of the January 2004 Federal CAN-SPAM law to ensure your email practices are in compliance.

Frequency – One of email recipients’ biggest complaints is receiving too many emails from the same entity/marketer. If different departments (customer service, research, sales) are sending messages simultaneously, that’s not a good thing.

Expectations – To ease value, importance and frequency objections, tell your intended email recipients what you’ll be sending and how often.

Don’t hide – Your recipient might know your company, but they still need to recognize you. This includes a familiar brand and email “From” line and email address.

Email Service Provider (ESP) – to effectively help with your strategy, manage your data, design your email, and track your results, you should consider using an ESP. Almost needless to say, an ESP, among many other things, for your email marketing program will build legal requirements into their platforms so you don’t have to worry about compliance.

Other -

  • Always include information in your Subject line.
  • Avoid using mostly images in your message.
  • Avoid using attachments as it’s better to link to files via a website.
  • Deliverability and performance metrics will increase if you simply perform list hygiene. It’ll lead to higher deliverability and fewer complaints, and thus, a better reputation.
  • Do not excessively use “Click Here.”

Obviously, no single tip will guarantee your email delivery, but utilizing as a group can certainly help.

Email Best Practices

When your customer/prospect allows you to send them future emails, they do so expecting something of value and that is something you can control. Remember, your subscriber wants email from you but only if it’s interesting and of value to them. They may not react today but soon, as they know good email (that’s in their best interests) from a good company when they see it.

However, even if you succeed and make it to the inbox, if your recipient thinks it’s spam – your address is flagged.

I’ll end with this: Simply, follow email marketing best practices by complying with CAN-SPAM laws… stay cognizant of and put into practice the tips you read here (and elsewhere)… and create overall compelling messages that result in higher inbox deliverability and response.

Fresh technologies will continue to appear, no doubt creating new communication channels to customers. So the rules of customer engagement will continue to change, and you can bet against that at your own risk. But until that next technology arrives, email in all its eclectic glory is ours to command.

Quality Content and Link Popularity: Keys to SEO

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Although poorly written, this is a very good article about the relationship between quality content and link popularity in achieving high ranking in the search engines. Most of us know that quality content – defined as valuable, unique and keyword rich content – is one of the most important criteria search engines use for ranking. Even more important, though, is link popularity. And how are they connected?

That’s the gist of the article, and rather than put my spin on it, I’ll let you read the article and see for yourself how the author cleverly explains the relationship between the two, how good content, in fact, leads to improved link popularity.