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.

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April, My Favorite Month of the Year
April 7, 2011

April is my favorite month of the year. Spring is finally in the air (and hopefully the snow is finished for Chicago), baseball season has started, we’ve had our first softball practice of the spring, and there are two very important birthdays coming up: mine and Randolph Sterling, Inc.’s.

My long time friends will tell you that I generally begin celebrating my birthday sometime around April 1 (even though it is not until the 25th) so as much as I act like a 5 year old when it comes to my own birthday, I think I am even more excited about the company’s birthday.

On April 22, 2003, I officially incorporated Randolph Sterling, Inc. Back then, it was just me and an idea that I could help some local Chicagoland companies by acting as a part time sales manager, although I had always had the idea that I could grow the company into something more than that, which is one of the reasons why the company is named Randolph Sterling, Inc. and not Rich Burghgraef Incorporated (although as a baseball fan, I guess I could have called us RBI).

Our goal has always been to help our clients grow. Over the years, we have added additional people, additional offices, and additional services to be able to help more companies in more ways. We still provide sales management services which include the work I originally did when the company first started out, but we now do so much more including:

Thank you to our clients, friends, and supporters for eight great years, we look forward to many many more helping you grow because right from the beginning one thing has remained constant—YOUR SUCCESS IS OUR BUSINESS!

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.

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!

The Importance of Specific Social Media Goals
August 3, 2010

Back around the holidays I was at a party where I met a social media skeptic, who put me in one of those situations where I was given minimal information about a business and thirty seconds to explain how implementing the social media could vastly improve every aspect about it.

The business was a small medical office where this woman worked with maybe one or two other doctors. That was all I had to go on.

My response at the time was to rattle off a number of clichés about controlling the conversation about her business, increasing its visibility, letting people get to know her better, presenting herself as an expert in her field, etc.

She was unimpressed and our contact at the party pretty much ended there.

In retrospect, I can understand why she was unimpressed. I rattled off a list of clichés she had probably heard before, that ultimately had little relevance to her business (although, in my defense, I will say she should have given me more to go on, such as what she specifically hoped to accomplish).

Generally speaking, if you are a family physician running a small medical office with one other person, how much does controlling the conversation about your business really matter? And, although the number of people using the internet to do research on their doctors is probably more than one might initially think, I believe the question of how much Twitter, Facebook, and amateur blogs come into play (as opposed to specialized sites for grading doctors) is open to debate.

Now (and here is why having well thought out goals is important) if you wish to become a resident medical guru on sites like Twitter and Facebook, then, by all means, join them and get to work. If you’ve just written a book or are hoping to become the next Dr. Oz, then building a fan base through the social media is an excellent idea if you want to take the time (perhaps two or three hours per day) to research the big medical news stories, blog about them, and promote your blog through Facebook and Twitter. But, if you’re just simply hoping to increase your number of patients, how much do you really believe your writings or tweets are going to compel people to come to you the next time they get sick? Some would say quite a bit, but in the medical field that does seem like a tough idea to sell, even before you get to the professional and ethical concerns involved. A better decision in this situation, the situation of the doctor I met, might be to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page as a way to stay in contact with your current patients, and maybe, if you feel enough is going on at your office to justify it, start sending out a monthly e-newsletter using a program such as Constant Contact.

 

One Year and Going Strong
July 26, 2010

It’s been about year now since I joined the Randolph Sterling team.

At the time, Randolph Sterling lacked any social media efforts beyond Rich’s personal LinkedIn account. The company website was out-dated, although still on par with many small to mid-sized businesses that I came across while partaking in my job hunt. And I was working as an academic research assistant, a job that entailed doing everything from data entry and statistical analyses on SPSS to grinding up fruit flies to extract, isolate, and replicate specific sequences of their DNA.

However, although such work can be fun, and will look good on my CV if and when I decide to pursue a graduate degree in experimental psychology, that kind of work also tends to be inconsistent and not very practical in terms of work experience.

Therefore, I felt it would be beneficial to explore other opportunities in the mean time because (1) if it is a few years till I return to academic study I would like to have regular work that does not involve a name tag or a green apron, and (2) even if I entered grad school tomorrow, I would still likely need a job, preferably one without a name tag or green apron.

So, I started looking for openings in marketing and advertising, thinking that both are essentially highly applied sub-fields of psychology loosely based on principles and concepts from studies in social psychology, perception, and cognition. What I found though was not very encouraging.  For the most part it appeared that unless you were a computer programmer or an SEO specialist, or had three years of relevant work experience and an MBA, all that was really open were low level telemarketing/sales jobs that involved working 40-60 hours per week for considerably less than minimum wage, at least for the first few months. There were also a few office assistant positions which gave me some hope of something to apply to as a last resort, but luckily it didn’t come that because I found a company in my area looking for a social media intern. That company was Randolph Sterling.

After speaking with Rich a few times on the phone, I finally met with him at a nearby Panera. He saw potential in developing a social media program for his company, but, at the time he was relatively unfamiliar with blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and didn’t have the time to handle much of that stuff personally. Following a second meeting at Panera, I was hired for a six to eight week trial period.

Since then quite a bit has changed. Not only do we have active Facebook and Twitter pages, but also blogs, now hosted on our new website, and a growing email marketing campaign through Constant Contact. Also, as anyone familiar with his blog or regular Panera stories knows, Rich has become incredibly active on Facebook, and in blogging. And, as for myself, my brief trial period was extended well beyond those six to eight weeks, and in that time I feel I have learned quite a bit about the social media, as well as sales and marketing. I’ve learned to use quite a few new social media tools and soon may even get more involved areas of the company beyond our social media efforts.