Remember the ‘Social’ in Social Media Marketing

Remember the Social in Social Media MarketingMarketing on social media is great for small businesses because you can connect with customers on a very personal level. Posting content like videos, quizzes and pictures helps customers feel closer to your business and remember you more frequently.

However, publishing content is not enough. Being social is key to success with this marketing strategy. When customers write reviews, comment or share your content, they have opened a conversation with your business. Ignoring their contributions is rude and off-putting. Plan time to check for customer interactions and engage with them.

In a recent related example, I reminded a small business client about the customer sign-up form on their website. They had forgotten about the form, and didn’t have a process to check submissions. When they checked it, there were two new, neglected customers in the system! We setup a process, so that scenario won’t repeat.

For most small businesses, devoting 30 minutes per week to following up with social media comments, reviews, shares, re-tweets and other interactions will ensure customers stay happy and feel like you’re listening to them. Set a goal and start today!

LinkedIn Publishing Platform Yields Lackluster Results

LinkedIn Pulse Publishing Yields Lackluster ResultsLinkedIn is a critical social media tool for networking, while adding significant value to B2B marketing and sales. I recommend that every individual stay active on the network, along with regularly updating your profile. Many businesses should have a LinkedIn strategy, too.

When LinkedIn launched its publishing platform, I was excited to try it out for my clients. Here are the benefits I was hoping would result from publishing on Pulse:

  • Providing content directly to a member’s network would promote more interaction from relevant audiences.
  • Articles would get an SEO boost from being on LinkedIn.

Several months later, and tests of Pulse have yielded lackluster results. Articles of similar theme and content perform better on my clients’ other platforms than on Pulse.

The Drawbacks of Marketing Your Small Business with LinkedIn Pulse

  • Articles from small business seem to be effective only if your subject matter surrounds networking, career advancement or recruiting.
  • Posts are published live. Without the ability to schedule posts, it’s difficult to publish at optimal times for your audience.
  • SEO appears to be less effective on Pulse than other networks.
  • Only three tags can be assigned to any one article.
  • Image size and placement customization are very limited.

LinkedIn Pulse could become a useful platform for marketing your small business. But first it needs to mature by adding features and giving authors more publicity.

A Small Business Marketing Campaign that Understands the Customer

James Free Jewelers is enjoying success with a clever marketing strategy tailored for engaged couples. With any bridal purchase over $5000, customers receive a free 4-day, 3-night honeymoon cruise.

Small business marketing campaign

This offer is much more attention-grabbing and interesting than a straight percentage discount, while still preserving margin for the retailer. A full-price, 4-day Bahamas cruise with Norwegian starts at $658/couple. That’s 13% of a $5000 purchase. Considering the bad PR that cruise lines like Norwegian have received in the recent past, James Free Jewelers probably doesn’t pay full-price for these complimentary cruises, allowing them to preserve even better margins.

Changing the conversation from a 13% discount to a free cruise shifts the purchasing decision away from raw price calculations into a more imaginative realm. You can picture a couple debating about which engagement ring to buy, and one of them says, “That other jeweler may be cheaper, but they don’t offer a cruise!”

Also, the promise of a cruise could push couples to spend more money with James Free Jewelers. They might opt for an engagement ring that’s a bit more expensive to qualify for the promotion. Also, the offer might motivate them to purchase the engagement ring and wedding bands from James Free, instead of shopping around and buying the pieces from various jewelers.

I encourage other small businesses to get creative with their promotions and use James Free’s campaign as inspiration. Think of experiences or benefits that would complement your products and services, like a honeymoon cruise for newlyweds. You’ll give more of a WOW factor and likely end up spending less marketing budget.

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs

Strangely, reality TV has fostered a golden era of business-focused television. Whether it’s Lori Greiner detailing why a product is “a hero or a zero,” Marcus Lemonis cutting through complicated shareholder agreements or Gordon Ramsay refocusing managers on the primacy of the guest experience, small business owners have opportunity for a free (and entertaining!) business education just by turning on the television.

1. Shark Tank

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs

This show is an obvious choice for my list, and I hope my entrepreneurial readers already watch it. ABC’s hit venture capital series offers useful advice to inventors, start-ups and small businesses.

2. Beyond the Tank

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
Shark Tank shows the exciting deal-making element of business, but Beyond the Tank delves into the day-to-day operational and marketing struggles of companies that made a deal with a shark. Watch this show to become inspired to implement!

3. The Profit

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
In this CNBC series, Marcus Lemonis takes over promising businesses that are failing due to operational issues, marketing failures or bickering owners. Not every business experiences success, which makes this show even more instructional.

4. Hotel Hell

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
We all know Gordon Ramsay’s “exploding chef” persona, but he’s also a stellar businessman. His perfectionism comes from a desire to deliver the absolute best guest experience. In Fox’s Hotel Hell, he guides struggling hotels/restaurants to profitability. It’s similar to his previous show Kitchen Nightmares (but with more mold infestations).

5. Nathan for You

My Top 5 TV Shows for Entrepreneurs
Reality business programming has become so popular, the genre has earned a parody show. In this Comedy Central spoof, Nathan Fielder brings terrible advice to unsuspecting small businesses. The opening credits reveal his qualifications in booming tones, “I graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades.” Perhaps this show isn’t truly educational, but you are going to love it.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Teaching Children the Value of a Nickel and a Dime

It’s rare that I’m pleased to receive direct mail marketing, but I eagerly opened the nicely-designed piece sent from the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. They have some exciting shows this season, including adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Tarzan.

But I found one aspect of their season ticket pricing off-putting. A “Season Infant Lap Pass” costs $1 per show.

Season Infant Lap Pass - $1

That’s right, if you need to bring an infant along to a performance, you have to pay one dollar for the privilege of holding a squirming baby in your lap.

As it Turns Out, Dollars are More Valuable than Nickels or Dimes. Lesson Learned!

There’s no reasonable business case for this strange charge. The Children’s Theatre might generate up to $20 in revenue per performance from the fee. That hardly seems to offset the risk of annoying customers by making them feel nickel and dimed. If even one family decides not to purchase a season ticket package because of this policy, the theatre loses money. (Also, if the theatre is trying to dissuade families from bringing infants to performances, this seems a heavy-handed approach).

From the theatre’s website FAQ’s, it appears the change is new to this season:

“Starting in the 2016-2017 season, every person, regardless of age, will need a ticket.  Children ages 0-1 year old who do not need a seat and will sit on your lap will be required to have an Infant Lap Pass for $1 for each show in every seating location throughout the theater.”

I suspect this policy will not be popular with customers, and it will be interesting to see how the Children’s Theatre reacts. In the meantime, small businesses should take a lesson from this example. Evaluate your pricing structure to see if customers might have similar reactions to your fees. And remember, a dollar is always more valuable than a dime!

Your Receptionist May Be Your Most Important Employee

In Small Business Marketing, Receptionists Are on the Front Line

Your Receptionist Might Be Your Most Important EmployeeReceptionist positions are often considered entry-level with high turnover. Small businesses don’t spend much time training the receptionist, sometimes just giving her an admonition to be friendly and punctual.

But from your customer’s perspective, your receptionist just might be your small business’s most important employee! An effective receptionist:

  • Is a customer’s first impression of your company
  • Develops meaningful customer relationships
  • Keeps customers happy
  • Is a key source of business intelligence

Everytime the phone rings or someone walks through the door, your receptionist is the spokesperson for your business. Customers will evaluate your business based on their interactions with the receptionist. More often than anyone else, she is in a position to execute your marketing strategies.

Receptionists are also in a position to uncover important business intelligence that should inform your small business marketing strategies. They talk to customers all day long. Through skillful conversation, they can identify how customers learned about you, what competitors they evaluated and problem areas in your products or services.

Does your receptionist know how important she is to your small business? Help her understand her professional role, and you’ll welcome a new, valuable member to your marketing team.

Data Disaster: 24% Never Back Up!

Someone arbitrarily decided that June is Backup Awareness month. Let’s celebrate with this pie chart from Backblaze:

Backup Frequency Chart

It’s hard to believe that almost half of computer owners never back up or only back up once a year. These users are headed for a data disaster because storage media always fail. On average, here’s the lifespan of common storage media:

  • 5-10 years: flash drives
  • 3-5 years: hard drives
  • 2-5 years: CDs and DVDs

I’m in the 8% that backup my files daily, and just last year I added secondary remote backups to my routine. I simply can’t afford to lose my clients’ valuable files and data.

As a small business, it’s critical you develop a backup routine. Losing even a month’s worth of files can significantly harm your productivity and success. Consider losing the last month’s billing cycle, the new spreadsheets you spent hours on, the countless emails exchanged and all the minute changes made to your documents.

Backup utilities automate the process of backing up. Once you configure the system, you’ll hardly have to think about it again– until you need the backup!

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Almost every pay-per-click advertising campaign has room for optimization. Today, let’s focus on one simple way to save money with your Google AdWords campaigns: adding negative keywords. A negative keyword prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.

For instance, it’s incredibly important to list negative keywords for my clients who are professional speakers. Otherwise, our ads would display for searches such as “Sony speakers for sale,” or “Public speaking tips.”

How to Add Negative Keywords to Your Google AdWords Campaigns

First, you’ll need to identify which keywords result in undesirable clicks to your ads. Fortunately, Google has a tool for that. In the Keywords tab, look at the Search Terms sub-tab, shown below:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Google describes this report as follows:

“Learn how customers are finding your ad. With the Search terms report, you can see the actual searches people entered on Google Search and other Search Network sites that triggered your ad and led to a click. Depending on your keyword match types, this list might include terms other than exact matches to your keywords.”

When I ran this report for a veterinary hospital, I found a few stray clicks from searches for things like “cat declawing” and “ear cropping” – services my client definitely doesn’t provide!  Also, several searches indicated clicks that might not results in optimal clients, such as “free vet clinic.” And there was a weird “def leppard” result. (Sometimes running this report can be really funny– except your advertising budget isn’t laughing.)

To add the negative keywords, click on the Negative Keywords sub tab, then click the big red +KEYWORDS button:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

All done! Enjoy your savings.

Suggested Negative Keywords to Get You Started

Different industries usually require different negative keywords, but here are a few general suggestions I use for most of my clients:

  • Cheap
  • Free
  • DIY
  • How to
  • Learn to
  • Profanity and explicit language

Add some negative keywords and watch your AdWords reports to track your results. You should save money and also receive more relevant clicks from potential customers.

Blogging is Not Dead. It’s a Vital Marketing Tool.

Blogs increase traffic 77%Blogging has been around since the 1990’s, and the practice has been fairly universally panned ever since. In the early days, detractors sneered that no one wants to read what bloggers ate for lunch (before the rise of foodie blogs proved them wrong). Today, blog belittlers insist that businesses should stop blogging and focus solely on social media.

But the truth is that blogs remain a vital small business marketing tool.

Why Blogs are Great for Marketing Your Small Business

  1. When you write with focused keywords, blogs are great for SEO. Search engines value websites that are regularly updated.
  2. Interesting blog posts provide content for your social media campaigns, while directing customers to pages that promote your brand in the best way.
  3. Packaging one or two interesting blog posts with your promotional emails increase open rates and customer engagement.

HubSpot published a helpful article last year, “21 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business with Inbound Marketing.” Included is helpful research showing how blogs increase your small business marketing effectiveness, such as:

92% of all online experiences begin with a search engine 61% of people say they prefer content

If you’ve been neglecting your blog, start it up again! Try posting one interesting piece of content each week, including posts, videos or pictures. To keep on schedule, follow my tips for creating an editorial calendar.