Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Don’t Be the Restaurant No One Wants to Eat At Because It Is Empty
June 6, 2011

You are walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood with a couple of friends. You are on your way to a party or perhaps just a movie. But you have a bit of time and decide to stop to eat dinner first. You can’t be too choosy, but it appears you have two options. From the outside both look clean and well maintained.  The lights are working. From the menus posted in the windows, both seem to offer some appetizing choices. And neither you nor your friends are opposed to either due to personal tastes. But, there seems to be something off about one of them. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first, but then you realize what it is. One of them appears, for all practical purposes, to be empty, save the one out-of-place guy in the corner you see while peering through the window, while the other is overflowing with patrons waiting to be seated. Which do you choose?

Unless you are really short on time, you choose the one overflowing with people. Why? Social proof. You assume that the place with more people is probably better, while the place with no people is in some way deficient, even if the deficiency is not easily discerned from outward appearances. You assume if so many people like something, there must be something about it to like. You assume that if so few people like something, there must be a reason why.

Social proof is one of the six principles of influence professor of psychology and marketing, Robert Cialdini, wrote about in his popular book Influence, and he covers it there much more extensively than I can here. But, given the attention I have seen it getting recently in social media circles, felt it might be worth a brief discussion.

In an article I wrote up on Constant Contact’s recent “Get Down to Business” seminar, I wrote of how one of the points I took away, or at least felt was worth reiterating after it was reiterated to me, was the following:

“People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through you social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.”

But, how do you get such displays of social proof on your social media page? Well, to begin, have you asked for a recommendation from one of your connections on LinkedIn? If so, assuming the person you asked provided it, then you already have attained some level of social proof through social media. But, the social proof you can get through social media does not end there. No, on LinkedIn you can get similar recommendations for your company pages. And, technically speaking, just having a large number of Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn connections can serve as social proof as well. High levels of activity on a Facebook page or blog is even better. And, fully fledged recommendations or thank you by satisfied customers on your Facebook page are even more beneficial. Going back to the restaurant analogy, if both restaurants were equally well populated, having such a recommendation from a friend (or from Yelp) might make you choose one over the other, or maybe even go to the less populated one in the original example if the recommendation was strong enough or from the right person.

Yet, now you ask how do you get such recommendations on various social media sites beyond LinkedIn which already has recommendations as a built in feature you’re required to use if you want to get you profile to 100%?

Simple, you ask. When you have a satisfied customer or client who sends you a private email or tells you in person how much they appreciate what you have done for them, you thank them, but ask if they could post it on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter or write a review on Yelp. None of these take much time or effort on their parts, but can be greatly beneficial to you. And, if you have a very satisfied customer, you might even ask if they’d be willing to give a video testimonial for YouTube and your website.

Getting Down to Business with Constant Contact, Social Media, and Daniel Nuccio
May 31, 2011

Last month I had the opportunity to attend Constant Contact’s “Get Down to Business” seminar in Chicago.  Not only was I able to meet with a variety of people working in social media, or at least implementing it for their businesses, as well as see presentations from several top people in the industry, but I was also able to attend a special lunch with Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and a small handful of respected guests and loyal Constant Contact customers.

Now, trying to sum up a morning-long seminar with about half a dozen speakers, followed by an hour and a half lunch in only four to eight hundred words would be a bit of a challenge, and I know I surely would have to leave a number of things out. Therefore I will just present some highlights, and interesting pieces of information I learned, or had reiterated to me, that I believe may be beneficial to those I share them with. Some are deserving of full length blog posts, which, if you are one of our loyal readers, you may see in the future, while others are just small golden nuggets.

Everyone’s doing it…or at least soon will be. The numbers show that more than 160 million people are tweeting while 500 million people actively use Facebook. And, according to Sprout Social’s Justyn Howard, in the near future, more small businesses will have a Facebook page than a website. Similar numbers Howard presented at the seminar indicated that in 2005 marketing efforts typically consisted of TV commercials, emails, phone calls, and face to face contact, whereas today, many of those older forms of marketing are being overshadowed tweets, check-ins, and Facebook status updates

Get involved where your clients, prospects, and potential customers are involved.  If you do not know where they are involved, ask. There is no point in using LinkedIn if everyone you either have or want to have a business relationship with is on Twitter, and vice versa.

Social bookmarking sites are dead…or at least soon will be. The only people who still use them are diehard social bookmarking site users. Unless you know your clients or prospects are diehard social bookmarking site users, don’t waste your time on Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, or the others.

When you do get involved, be a concierge, not a salesman. There is a commonly used analogy in social media circles that going on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site is like going to a cocktail party. When you arrive, you do not go to a bunch of random people saying “My name is Mr. X.  I sell Y. This is why Y is so great. Would you like to buy Y?” Instead, you mingle with people. You join the conversations already going on. Many of these conversations may have nothing to do with business. But, while you are mingling with people, you are building a certain level of rapport with them, and, when they need Y, or know someone who needs why, they will be more likely to think of you.

Social Media is not a quick fix! If your business is failing or has a bad business plan or has an ill developed sales process, social media probably can’t save you. Implementing social media takes time. Again, it is about relationship building, not selling!

People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through your social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.

People are terrible at measuring the indirect effects of social media…probably partly because doing so can be difficult…if not near impossible. I am aware of how this sounds…It sounds like an easy out for any social media consultant not doing their job properly or investor in a bad social media tool trying to convince others things aren’t so bad, and unfortunately the above can be used this way. But, at the same time, simply taking a look at whether your business is doing better now compared to before you implemented a social media program may not necessarily give a clear answer given the myriad of factors that can influence success or failure. Now, I suppose an experiment or quasi-experiment can be done, things like the number of retweets you get or the level of activity on a Facebook page can be measured, and new clients/customers, can be asked or surveyed about how they found you, but, at the end of the day, activity on a social media page is not always converted into new business and even when asked, your new client/customer may not be able to tell you that they received your contact info after a friend recommended you after checking out your website after seeing a tweet of yours retweeted by a different friend.

There are no social media experts…just people who might know a little more and have a little more experience. Everyone who works in social media knows this. Anyone who says differently is likely doing so either due to ignorance or deceit. Now, again, this is not to say that there are not people who know more or have more experience, and if you are hiring someone to help you with social media you should be able to reasonably expect (or demand) that they have a certain level of familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, that they know which sites are being phased out, and that they know how to use some of the more prominent social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, but, that said, there are changes being made to all the major social media sites quite frequently, and new social media sites, management tools, and other various instruments to make any number of social media related tasks easier are being developed everyday, and even people like Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and Justyn Howard, among countless others, will admit that there is always more to learn.

A Few Additional Thoughts on Executive Leadership
May 1, 2011

I’d like to start this post by thanking Russ Riendeau for his great stories and lessons, and for his contribution to our blog as our first guest blogger. We appreciate it, and hope he is not our last.

Now, here’s a few thoughts of mine on Russ’ lessons.

  1. Missionaries get paid well, at best, for a short period of time. If you and the client are not on a same page, no matter how much they pay you up front, it will most likely not be a beneficial relationship for either of you.
  2. Solid referrals are more profitable than weak prospecting. I say this only hours after meeting with a referral from Russ (who is hoping to need him in the next few months as things continue to grow) who also referred me to another client. Referrals that are well thought out and make sense are worth their weight in gold. Referrals for the sake of looking like you know people end up being a waste of three people’s time. I’ve had people call me who were going to a “leads group” and needed to make a referral so they asked me if I knew of anyone who might need a printer: BAD REFERRAL. The ones Russ gave me of companies who want to increase sales and take some of the initial relationship development work off of the plate of their salespeople: GOOD REFERRALS. Also, prospecting with a purpose is a great way to find new clients as well. Ask yourself, what do the people you work with all have in common besides the things you can search for on Reference USA? What makes you great and a great fit for them? Searching them out as well as telling your referral sources are very effective ways to build a great client base. Buying a list of people who are not in your target…probably not the best use of resources.
  3. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a doubter. This is the hardest thing for a salesperson to do. We talk to salespeople all the time and ask if they have done everything they could. Did they listen to the client’s needs? Are they just not the right fit? Do they just not get it? Is it time to simply walk away?
  4. Have good data and documents to shore up every statement you make. We spend most of our time telling prospects what we did for a similar company and asking questions about them, rather than telling them how great we are. They can find that out on their own. We are a much better resource if we understand their needs and show we have similar experience before trying to sell them something.
  5. It’s not the price. It’s their lack of perception of your value, and it’s your duty to point out the real costs they’ll incur if they don’t use your services.ABSOLUTELY! If they see how the solution will make them money, or save them money, they usually can find a way to buy it.
  6. It’s really fun and empowering to say NO to working with someone that you can feel will be a struggle. It boosts self-confidence and gives courage to believe in yourself and abilities. NO IT ISN’T…just kidding, I was testing the strategy…I feel more empowered already.

Social Media for the Intermediate User
March 22, 2011

Not too long ago I attended a social media seminar hosted by Constant Contact and presented by their regional director for Illinois, Steve Robinson at an Ing Direct Cafe in Downtown Chicago. Despite spending a little time brushing up on some basics, this was not Social Media 101, but an interactive discussion for intermediate users on how to use social media the right way.

At the event we talked about how many social media sites can be, and are being used as places of commerce, and as tools to market ones products and services. According to Constant Contact’s statistics, 51% of small businesses use Facebook, 29% use blogs, 27% use LinkedIn, 26% use Twitter, and 16% use YouTube. But, as any social media consultant will tell you, it is not enough to just use them. No, what is important is that you use them well.

You cannot have a static social media page. In fact, you really shouldn’t even have a static website any more. No, you need to have a social media page where you actively connect with, converse with, and disseminate valuable information and content to others while building and strengthening relationships with them. Through these pages you can reach out to fans, customers, and prospects, and build your network by sharing relevant, valuable content, and reaching out to and engaging more people. By doing this you can increase repeat business, as well as online referrals in the form of others sharing your content making online endorsements.

Unfortunately many people will never really get involved. Why? They psych themselves out knowing they’ll never have millions or even thousands of followers. They are unmotivated or uninterested in writing thought leadership articles. They think they will never have the dedicated staff to do it right. Or they feel they don’t have the time to stay current.

But what these people forget is that it is not about the quantity of your followers, but the quality. And, for those who feel unmotivated to write thought leadership articles or feel they lack the staff, ability, or time to do social media well, they may wish to consider hiring a consultant or content manager.

That said, if you do get involved, you may wonder how you decide which tools to use. Well, fist ask yourself where your customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors are. If you do not know, in most cases you can simply ask them. Also, use different media’s together.

Now, once you are setting up your pages, be sure to look professional, to take advantage of all the features each site has to offer (or at least the free ones), and to make sure that you properly brand your pages. Also, post some starter content to drive people to your pages or at least to make the pages look active. This can consist of company information, tips, practical advice, opinions, links to archived newsletters, polls, event announcements, blogs reviews of your products or services, articles, discussions, etc. Then, once your pages are up and your starter content is in place, announce your presence with an email with a strong call to action, ideally using an email marketing service such as Constant Contact. And, once you get going, be sure to be an expert, trade useful information, offer valuable insights, and engage your audience.

6 Reasons 2 Use an Email Marketing Service
January 15, 2011

  1. You can professionally brand your emails with your company colors, images, logo, etc..
  2. You do not share your contact lists with everyone on your contact list.
  3. The odds of your message being mistaken for spam are greatly decreased.
  4. You can send your message to thousands of people at once.
  5. Doing so automatically puts you in compliance with at least two mandates of the Canned Spam Act by providing an opt-out option and making you provide a physical address.
  6. Greetings can be automatically personalized for your recipients by including their name in the greeting.

 

7 Touches and 3 Emails: 2 Important Numbers for Every Email Marketing Campaign
January 14, 2011

Last week I attended a presentation on Constant Contact given by Steve Robinson. Much of it was a refresher. Much of it clarified things I was a bit fuzzy on. However there were two numbers that really stuck out for me. The first was that it takes about seven touches with a prospect before a sale will occur, ideally through a combination of mediums including social media, email marketing, sales calls, advertisements, face to face meetings, and so on. The second number was that when contacting people through an email marketing service like Constant Contact, you only get two or three opportunities to prove the value of your newsletter before a contact will stop opening it, opt-out, or, worst of all, mark you as a spammer.

So how do you avoid such a fate for your emails? How do you increase the likelihood your contacts will not only open them, but deem them valuable?

The short answer, you have to provide value. For the longer answer you have to first ask what your contacts find valuable. That may not necessarily be the same as what you find valuable.

The email you send is not about you, but what you know and what you can offer. This means you want to educate your audience about what you know and what you can offer. To do this, provide them with information, hints, and expert tips though articles highlighting your knowledge, case studies highlighting the services you provide, and a featured employee section highlighting the experience and ability of those who work for you. In doing this, you are promoting your business and building relationships.

This said, no matter how valuable the information you provide may be, it will not matter if your email ends up in a spam folder or is not recognized as coming from you.

To avoid the spam folder avoid excessive capitalization and punctuation, as well as certain key words like “SALE”.

As for getting your company the recognition it deserves, this is where branding comes in. Doing this through Outlook or your personal email account is typically not possible. But, it is a major feature of the major email marketing services like Constant Contact which allow you to use or modify existing templates, or create templates of your own, so that the email you send is recognized by your company colors, logo, and whatever other personal touches you may wish to include.

So Now We Have Video Blogs
November 12, 2010

After months of listening to our social media director speak of the value of having them, FINALLY Randolph Sterling, Inc. has produced some videos for the website and our blogs. There has been much discussion as to how to do these videos and at what expense. Do we do them ourselves or do we hire a professional video production company to do it for us? Our feeling was that we would start with the flip cam, knowing that there are definitely better quality options out there but at least getting us involved in the media rather than taking what would have been months to interview video production guys, etc.

We also chose to have topics for discussion based on frequently asked questions and things that we know people want to ask, or maybe wonder about but don’t actually ask. We did not script it out simply because I (who was in all of the videos, but this will change as we will have other members of the team speaking on their particular areas of expertise as well) generally do better just talking about my thoughts on subjects rather than scripting it out. The conversational style is also how we develop talking points for our inside sales projects so my thought is if it is good enough for us to recommend to our clients for best results, it is good enough for us to use ourselves.

[videos will be back up once website maintenance is complete 02/10/11]

The “Real Classroom” vs. the Real World: Did an “Innovative” Approach to Advertising 101 Prepare Me for the My Job?
September 5, 2010

For those of you who don’t know, my educational background is not in business. No, I double majored in psychology and history. However, while in college I did take a handful of electives in business as something practical in case I didn’t head to grad school immediately after graduation. Most of these courses were like any other class. There were terms to memorize and concepts to understand, as well as the occasional test to study for. However, a couple of these classes, to one degree or another, had professors who prided themselves on implementing what they saw as an innovative approach to teaching: setting up a classroom environment based on what we should expect to encounter once we entered the real world.

More than one of my professors talked about doing this, but only one truly followed through. In other business classes, I found myself working on group projects with my classmates, and these were no different than working on a group project in any other class. Best case scenario, I’m working with friends and the group project is just one extra thing to talk about while hanging out at Starbucks or picking up lunch at Café Baci between classes, or maybe while standing in line at a movie. Worst case scenario, I’m the one conscientious person in a group of underage alcoholics and stoners, during a time of year when one of the local sports teams just made the playoffs. The idea was that, like the real world, you had to learn to work with a group of diverse people, each with their own schedules and their own baggage, and that at the end of the day, if you wanted to succeed, you would have to work together.

However, as I said, only one class, my introduction to advertising course, truly implemented the idea of the classroom-workplace. The class was not a class, but an ad agency. Our professor was not a professor, but a client. We were not students, but admen. And, some of us even got to be group leaders or team mangers. The result though, often made me believe that the ad agency I was working at was one you might see on TV or in a movie.

But what TV show or movie was I stuck in?  Definitely not Mad Men. We weren’t well dressed and charismatic, taking three lunchtime martinis and flirting with attractive secretaries between serious meetings where our Don Draper would have a moment of inspiration that would lead to an ingenious advertising campaign. We weren’t even like Darren Stevens and Larry Tate on Betwitched because at least they still presumably got stuff done, despite the many misadventures caused by Darren’s wife’s twitching nose. No, we were more like that bad comedy you saw last March, but can’t remember the name of. You know the one where the screenwriters needed a stock-white-collar job for the lead character and thought something in medicine or law would require too much back-story. Yes, in this class we sat at oddly shaped tables, looked up brainteasers online, stared at cognitive illusions, and analyzed the deeper meaning of Super Bowl ads, all of which were supposed to get the old creative juices flowing, which, in turn, would help us think outside the box as we tossed the idea ball around. We also used a lot of jargon that didn’t mean anything. For our final exam, we had to describe the people we worked with for our group projects using car analogies: Who was the engine that got us going? Who were the headlights that allowed us to see clearly when things looked their darkest? Who was hood ornament who looked nice, but didn’t do anything useful?

Although I didn’t think to write it at the time, my answer to that last one should have been not a who but a what. And that what should have been the concept upon which the class was based. Why do I say that?

Because the artificial business environment which was supposed to instill a sense of professionalism in us was…well, artificial. At the end of the day we were still students in an introductory advertising class. Our group leaders had no real authority. And, if our client was unpleased, all anyone had to lose was a good grade, as opposed to a salary, a career, or a reputation. And, like any introductory class, there were a number of people without much interest or passion in the subject matter at hand who simply needed an elective and were more than happy to take a “C”.

So, to answer my question, if it is not obvious already, I can’t say the “Real Classroom” really helped prepare me for the real world. (Honestly, I would argue my two years of academic research were better preparation for my current position working in social media, but that’s a topic for another time). But, even worse, I don’t even feel the “Real Classroom” was that real.

Tell me, those of you currently working in advertising and marketing, those of you with several more years of experience than me: what shape is the table or desk you sit at? How much time have you spent this week staring at cognitive illusions for inspiration? And how does knowing how to take a baby, a dog, and a jar of rat poison across a lake in a tiny boat help you discover your next big ad campaign?

The End of Summer Is almost Here
September 1, 2010

Here we are, the “end of summer” as the kids get back to school, summer vacations have been taken, and it is back to the old routine. But wait a second, I went out for a walk this morning to just reflect a bit on 2010 so far and it was already in the 80’s with high humidity…are you sure that summer is ending?

I had a great summer. I probably traveled a bit more than I would have preferred and my softball teams didn’t quite win as much as I would have liked, but I had a great time none the less. Summer for Randolph Sterling, Inc. was pretty good too, I’d have to say. Every day, I am lucky enough to learn something, and this summer (well 2010 actually) has been no different. It may be the most simple of lessons that stuck with me the strongest, but it was remembering that relationships are key in doing business. It has been said before by many people that people buy from people they KNOW, LIKE, & TRUST.

It used to be that trust was built by going door to door, shaking hands and getting to know your prospect face to face. The “house call” if you will. Then the salesperson’s world changed as the calling card gave way to the cell phone and people saw that they could call more people than they could see. Not as personal. But still pretty effective.

Next came email and wow, I can send the same message to all of my contacts at once—how efficient. What’s next, but Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, LinkedIn, eNewsletters, and people all over the world knowing exactly what I think about a topic instantly!

It seems that each level of “improvement” in reaching our target contacts has made us more efficient, but has also taken us further away from that personal interaction. So why is it that this year has been so good for us? Well two reasons, actually. First, we realized pretty early that no one of these solutions will help us bring in the clients we want, so we developed an approach that allowed us to integrate all of these into our sales processes; allowing us to reach prospects many different ways but always in the way they would like. Second, our clients realized that there was no “magic bullet” either, so we have been doing a lot to help them find the right mix of marketing and sales to work for their team and the individuals who comprise it.

What are you doing to find new clients? Are you doing the same old thing and hoping for better results, or are you trying different approaches and evaluating the results? Let us know what you are doing and how it is working, or if you would like help developing or implementing a plan. Please don’t hesitate to call us…or visit us, email us, hit us up on Facebook or Twitter, or see us at a networking event!

Happy Labor Day everyone. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and then, get right back to it!

Do You Know What You’re Doing Online?
August 8, 2010

Back when I was in college I was fairly active with a few groups that dealt with issues related to science education. I ran the psychology club at my school for a number of years, bringing in three or four speakers per semester that would speak on such topics as getting into grad school, autism, the social psychology of mind control and love, the psychology of religion, the evolution of behavior, and an endless number of other subjects. I was (and technically still am) a member of Psi Chi and had the opportunity to represent my school’s chapter at the American Psychological Association’s conference in Boston in 2008. And after I graduated I met a number of people affiliated with non-profit science education groups that operate at the national level.

Since I began my career working with social media, I have been asked to and have offered to help some of these groups, usually pro bono since I know they don’t have a lot of money and I agree with their goals. In doing so I have noticed them making a number of mistakes that are all too common.

For example, I have noticed that some, or at least their affiliates, use poorly designed websites they seldom update as their primary means of reaching out to people through the internet, and sit around wondering why they are not making more connections. I have also noticed a fair amount of reluctance on the part of some of these groups to get involved in the social medial, often hearing that the social media is “still new” and that they would rather wait and see where it goes before they act. When they do get involved in the social media, I’ve noticed that many have done so half-heartedly, using it as a one way means of communication, assuming that if they make one post a month and put up a couple of links people will just flock to them. And when they seek or receive advice, I’ve noticed they are slow to implement it, and don’t even always do so completely.

Now, this is not an indictment of any of these groups, but examples of unfortunate social media practices that turn people off to it or convince them that it’s a passing fad that will soon fade, or something more than a fad that has no real value. And this kind of poor implementation of the social media is not unique to a handful science education non-profits I happen to know people at, but across practically every industry you can think of.

Some things to remember are that the social media is not new, an inactive website or social media account is as good as no website or account at all, and that these mediums are not one way, but are intended to encourage and foster conversation.