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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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 “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?

A New Season Is Almost Upon Us
August 25, 2010

A new season is almost upon us: the heat of summer fades into the glory of fall, baseball yields to the dominance of football, and for me personally- new and exciting opportunities are on the horizon! Perhaps this can be a time of change for you, too.

All too often in sales, orany job for that matter, we are easily consumed by the routine and mundane. Not only does this stifle creativity, but productivity as well. Wondering how to inspire, innovate, and motivate yourself?  Start with a new perspective and begin a new season!

Here are three ways to weather these times with thoughtful initiatives:

  1. Get out of the box (or cube) and talk with others! Identify people who have found success – learn from them and adapt their principles. Consider joining Randolph Sterling’s Sales and Marketing Peer group (SAM group) – where top sales people discuss ways to push the bar! It can help you set and reach the goals that seem so elusive.
  2. Try something new! If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got- or so the saying goes. Join a new club, group, or even a new work out routine. A fresh perspective can change what and how you think!
  3. Use your media! Connect with others through new media. Tap into these venues to make new contacts and connections. Reaching out to others will give you a new perspective-helping you to define the process for change.

A new season is indeed upon us- take this time to evaluate your personal goals, employ the change initiatives, and find new growth. You may just find that your new perspective will lend itself to inspiration, innovation, and motivation.

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.

 

The Light Is Getting Brighter…What Will You Do?
March 9, 2010

While talking with a large number of manufacturing companies the last few weeks, I have noticed a positive change in attitude. Most companies were optimistic about their business as we started the new year.  The feeling seemed to be that things were getting better and 2010 would certainly show productivity to be on an increase.

These last few weeks however, it seems that they are going to be busier than even they expected. I hear more companies tell me they are currently at their manufacturing capacity. The next step will have to be adding another shift. Before they do anything with Randolph Sterling, they have to gear up for more production.

Companies are investing in their future as new websites and marketing campaigns are in the works. The number of companies who have new websites in the process of being built is growing. Likewise, marketing campaigns are flourishing. And that includes all forms of marketing: email campaigns, social media, and yes, even through the mail. It seems that we are so tired of getting all of these emails, that we delete them without even opening them up. However, with so little mail through the post office, some marketing people are suggesting a return to the mailings.  The rationale being that we get so little mail that there is a better chance of our customers looking at a mailing from us. So, we might be back to depending on the U.S. Post Office again. Not necessarily a good thing.

Former customers who decided to buy their goods from China are starting to return. The cost of goods seems to be about the same, so the big difference is, of course, labor. However, it seems, at least in some areas, that most of those savings are offset by the freight charges from China. Whatever the reason, it seems that some companies are returning to products manufactured here in the good ole USA.

Now, I don’t have any statistics to back up what I’ve said. You might have to go to the Commerce Department or one of a hundred different agencies to get the statistics on all of this. There is a saying about liars and statistics.  And one that says you can make statistics say whatever you want.

All I know is what I see and hear.  For the last five months, temporary staffing agencies are placing more workers as companies are slowly increasing their work force. Budgets have been approved for marketing, which normally is one of the first expenditures taken out of a budget when times are bad.  No longer is reputation or word of mouth enough to acquire new business.  Companies are actively searching for new customers instead of just maintaining what they have.  They are looking at outsourced sales and marketing organizations of all types to assist them with these sales efforts.

Some companies are more interested in a manufacture’s rep firm, where their outside sales people will carry the banner for their company. Others will rely on a solid marketing program, waiting and hoping for the new customers to call.  Others are looking at someone like us, Randolph Sterling, with our inside sales organization, where we can make an impact.  All have their value and place in the sales effort.  Always remember though, you can’t make a sale if you’re not in front of the right people.  That is what we do, and we do it well.

Learning about Clients and Prospects through the Social Media
January 27, 2010

It is the second decade of the twenty first century. Direct contact with friends, family, clients, and prospects is becoming increasingly limited. We screen our calls as others screen the calls we make to them. We leave voice messages in the hope that not only those we are calling check their voicemail in a timely manner, but that they will deem our message worthy of a response. We send e-mails with no knowledge of if or when they’re opened. We make posts on people’s walls and wonder  afterwards if we were clear enough in indicating that we would like them to comment on it. And we tweet to our friends and colleagues and strangers trying to convey a greeting, a message, and a call to action in 140 characters or less. So, the question is how do we cope with this increasingly acceptable lack of contact with people, especially when doing business.

Well, there are a couple of approaches, one of which may actually be helpful. The first option is complain. Complain to your family. Complain to your friends. Complain to the world through your blog. Complain to anyone who is willing to listen about how society is crumbling because new technologies are making people aloof, impolite, and socially inept. And if you choose this option, some of your points might be valid, and some are probably a bit batty. But, regardless, unless you are preparing for a career as a professor of sociology or philosophy, your raving is not going to get you anywhere.

Your other choice is not only to live with these changes, but to use them to your advantage. For example, how valuable would you consider information on a client or prospect that included their educational and work backgrounds, interests and hobbies, favorite sports teams, political and religious affiliations, favorite charities, tastes in music (one of the best conversational topics for building rapport with someone new), as well as, in psychological terms, indicators of how open they are to new experiences, their level of conscientiousness, and whether they are introverted or extraverted. Many people would consider such a source of information to be a goldmine. And what many of them don’t know is that a lot of people directly give this information away for free when they post it on their Facebook page, or indirectly reveal it through their status updates, wall posts, conversations with friends, and their photos.

Another valuable source of information, which is also an excellent way to cope with not knowing if or when someone opened your e-mail, are services such as Constant Contact, which allow you to put together newsletters, and other messages such as holiday greetings and thank you cards, and send them to hundreds or even thousands of e-mail addresses that you’ve collected over the years through doing business with people, working trade shows, holding seminars, and just meeting strangers. Then, once you send the e-mail, you can track, among other things, who opened it, how many times they opened it, when they opened it, what links they clicked on, and how many times they clicked on those links. This information can later be used by you to indicate who might be interested in which of your products, services, or other content. And, depending on your current level of familiarity with them, you might even want to give some of your more interested contacts a call, or casually bring up what you saw caught their eye the next time you see them, and ask if they would like to discuss any of the content with you further.

Master of Memory: How to Build Rapport, Increase Familiarity, and Get People to Like You
January 17, 2010

During my junior year of high school I took a college prep course which met everyday during first period. During this class we’d typically spend our time learning ACT and SAT strategies, but sometimes we’d have a special guest speaker come in to tell us about life as a professional in one field or another as a way to get us thinking about what career we might want to pursue, and how the decisions we made in the next couple years with regard to what major we chose and what classes we took would directly influence our potential in those fields.

Now, of the endless list of guests that came to speak with us, one of the most memorable for me was a man who had a long successful career in marketing and advertising before entering a state of semi-retirement during which he took a job as the head of admissions at our school, which was a post that included a number of miscellaneous tasks such as helping out with the yearbooks and with some of the school’s marketing and advertising needs. What made his presentation as memorable as it was, was not that it inspired me to seek a career in marketing or advertising. It didn’t. I studied psychology and history in college. No, what made it memorable was how good our speaker seemed to be at what he did, how much fun he seemed to have doing it, and how what he taught us in that forty minute period could be applicable in so many situations.

For example, one of the things he emphasized was the importance of building rapport with people, increasing familiarity with them, and getting them to like you. He talked about how people are always pleasantly surprised at how well he remembers minor details about their lives such as their children’s birthdays, the college they went to, or what their favorite sports teams were.  And then our guest shared with us his secret as he pulled from the pocket of his blazer a mini tape recorder and told us that we could have a memory like his too, if we carried one with us and knew what tape to listen to before meeting with a person for a second or third time.