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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

The New Small: Gain Leverage Through Technology

By John Joyce on February 16, 2011 - Comments 0

How a New Breed of Small Businesses is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies

The New Small:  How a new breed of small businesses is harnessing the power of emerging technologiesPhil Simon offers a comprehensive view of technology past, present and future as it pertains to empowering small business owners to compete, adapt and grow as effectively as possible.  Many of the stories and examples highlighted in the book include lessons learned from Simon’s past experience working with big companies – mostly how NOT to operate your business.

The New Small takes a holistic view of working smarter  by identifying major technology trends and explaining how the landscape has changed and why you need to understand the impact on your business.

Employees can be only as productive as their company’s tools let them be.  Even the hardest working person who requires zero sleep cannot move heaven and earth.  Many New Small founders know from their previous jobs the frustration of having to make do with outdated technology.  As such, they do not want their employees to struggle using inadequate tools.  The New Small wants -and needs- their employees to be as productive as possible.  Emerging technologies are crucial in this regard, especially collaborative ones.

Before giving you examples of successful New Small business owners (and there are plenty of great stories in the book), Simon explains the evolution of technology and the impact it can have on your business.  Simon refers specifically to “The 5 Enablers” as follows:

  1. Cloud Computing
  2. SaaS
  3. Free and Open Source Software
  4. Mobility
  5. Social Technologies

Once you understand these “game-changing” technologies and the impact they can have on your business, and combine that knowledge with the real world examples in the book, you’ll be ready to enter the realm of the New Small.  Kudos to @philsimon for combining technology and business insights in one book that is well written and so densely packed with nuggets of insight and inspiration that it will certainly become more of a “operational reference guide” in the future.

I recommend this book to any small business owner that embraces the fact that change is inevitable/ongoing and you must be ready and willing to adapt to the uncertain world around you.

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What if You Could Combine Outbound/Offline Marketing with Inbound/Online Marketing?

By John Joyce on October 28, 2010 - Comments 2

If you have a local business and still rely on direct mail to reach prospects as well as existing customers, then you have experienced the fear of not knowing whether you have achieved any ROI.  What if you could actually track the audience response to your direct mail campaigns and even follow their progress through your own online portal?  What if you could track their referral activity once they transitioned into the online world and allow them to utilize social networking links to evangelize your offer to their network of contacts?  And, finally, what if you could reward these customers based on their influence and ability to drive new customers to your business?  That would be just Dukky!

I read an article about a company called Dukky in the July 2010 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine where the founder of Dukky, Shawn Burst, had an idea to revive the dying direct marketing and print industries.  Let’s face it, more than 99% of “junk mail” goes directly into the trash. But, with this solution, you have a lead generation system that marries the offline marketing world with the online marketing world. Take a look at the video below to get a better understanding of exactly how Dukky works:

“According to the Direct Marketing Association, more than 54 percent of all advertising spending in the United States goes into direct-marketing channels. Spending in 2009 was more than $149 billion; direct mail and catalogs alone made up $44.4 billion of that.”

Businesses spent more than $44B in 2009 on direct mail and catalogs and they have no idea what kind of return they’re getting on their investment.  Now, Dukky will allow them to develop direct mail campaigns that can be tested and tracked for effectiveness.

For the small businesses that use postcards to remain top-of-mind with prospects, now you can entice them to participate in a more interactive process, to better understand your USP and to share a special offer with their social network.  Dukky’s small business solution is currently in beta and pricing starts at $99/month so I suggest you get in touch with them and find out how they can help you leverage their solution to grow your business.

The reports of direct marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated – according to Shawn Burst at least.

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3 Ways Small Businesses Should Leverage Location-Based Marketing In 2011

By John Joyce on October 13, 2010 - Comments 0

Small business owners have an opportunity to take advantage of several great technologies to broaden their local reach and position themselves as the big fish in their respective small pond.  I’m going to assume that most local businesses are listed with the three major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) but, if not, refer to this white paper for instructions.  Each of these platforms has local search embedded, to some extent, so you want to be able to take advantage of this free marketing platform.

To go one step beyond simple search, let’s take a look at ways you can proactively deliver your message to prospective customers based on their geographic location:

1)  Twitter

I just read an article this morning about a local bakery, Sugar Coated Bakery, that has managed to thrive in this difficult economy even with the rising cost of ingredients like flour and sugar.  They have a Facebook page but no Twitter account listed on their site and I immediately thought of a product I read about last year, Baker Tweet, which enables you to scroll through your list of baked goods and Tweet when a new batch comes out of the oven.  Also, Advanced Twitter Search allows you to identify people based on their location, follow them and, hopefully, they’ll follow you back.

Give people the opportunity to friend, follow or like you in any way they choose and then make sure you keep the conversation going.

2)  Foursquare

I’ve written about Foursquare before and it has defined the location-based marketing space by proving the value of building a participatory community as opposed to the more conversational platforms like Facebook.  This is a solution where you can reward your best customers and build an army of evangelists simply by letting them take part in your success.

This is one of the best ways to build loyalty and generate repeat business from your most loyal customers.

3)  Location-Based Advertising

If you’re having trouble building a following within social media platforms, help may soon arrive in the form of location-based advertising from Twitter.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could reach your core demographic within 20 miles of your business with a very focused value proposition?  Foursquare has stumbled in their efforts to deliver location-based advertising options but maybe it’s a sign that their platform is best suited for DIY campaigns only.  Google just announced that Marissa Mayer has been promoted from VP of Search and User Experience to a new role focused on location-based services.

Three big players all vying for your advertising dollars.  Let’s hope at least one of them comes up with a solution that delivers.

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Building Your Online Persona vs. Being A Narcissistic Blowhard

By John Joyce on September 12, 2010 - Comments 0

Facebook Breeds NarcissistsA recently released “study” by a psychology student at York Univiersity in Canada showed Facebook users are more likely to be narcissistic.  Their next piece of research will likely answer the age-old question, “do the Irish like beer?”  Seriously, though, this should serve as a reminder to companies using social media -  be genuine and don’t try to project a false image.

Self-promotion is an integral part of social networking but you can’t change your message or image simply because it’s different from more traditional channels. The unique advantage of new online communities is that they are bidirectional and in real time so feedback is instantaneous.  In the future, when you’re interacting with prospects and customers online, make sure you follow these three guidelines:

  • Be honest
  • Be consistent
  • Listen
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Be The Subject Matter Expert: Building Your Online Marketing Ecosystem Part XVI

By John Joyce on May 5, 2010 - Comments 0

Raise your hand and answer questions so people know you're the expertIf you know the answer to a question, you had better raise your hand and let everyone know that you are a subject matter expert.  There are plenty of prospective customers out there looking for answers and all you have to do is share your experience and knowledge with them.  I use a service called Lotusjump (affiliate link) which automates the process of finding questions that pertain to specific keywords I have entered into their system.  Not only do I benefit from positioning myself as being knowledgeable in a specific area, but each answer posted is now an inbound link to my site.  There is a modest monthly fee for this service but it saves you a bunch of time and teaches you how and where you should be investing your SEO resources.

You would be surprised how many prospective customers are asking questions on sites like Answers.com and Yahoo Answers.  And, for the most part, they’re more than happy to award you “the best answer” moniker for taking the time to give thoughtful and insightful answers.

Much like blogging, it might take you awhile to find your “voice” and style for answering questions but this will develop over time.  The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to be the “blah, blah, blah, hey look at me” guy/girl.  Here are a few guidelines for effectively highlighting your knowledge and experience:

  1. Make sure the question is clear.  Don’t be afraid to ask for quick clarification.
  2. Get right to the point.  Don’t yammer on like Ron Burgundy about being “a big deal”.
  3. Be authoritative.  You need to do x, y and then z.   Don’t do a, b or c.
  4. Tell them why.
  5. When possible, insert links to your site, white papers, etc.

Online Marketing Ecosystem

Although it isn’t included in the image to the right, LinkedIn is another great place for you to build your reputation as an expert.  Since this is a business site with millions of members the competition for “best answer” is substantial as compared to the standard answer forums.

Take a look at these sites to get an idea of the questions you can expect and study the responses of the people who have given the best answers.  It’s not that complicated.  People have questions and you have answers.  So, get to work!

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Why Are There Bad Reviews Of Your Business In Google Maps?

By John Joyce on April 20, 2010 - Comments 2

Did you know that people can post a review of your business in Google Maps?  Google also pulls reviews from other sites (Citysearch, Insiderpages) and automatically posts them to your business listing.  Strangely, as the business owner, you have very little control over these reviews so you’ll have to add this to your “watch list” for online reputation management.

Are there negative reviews of your business online?  Find them and  fix them.Sentiment Analysis is a quickly growing data set that listing services are collecting and publishing, so, what are your options when dealing with negative feedback that finds its way into your business listing?

  • If a review was posted directly to your business listing in Google, you can flag it and then you’ll have to prove that the post violates published terms and conditions.
  • Are you able to identify the person who posted the negative comment?  If so, reach out to them, listen to their feedback and try to address their concerns.  Ask them if they would be willing to change or delete their negative review.
  • Google suggests you contact the webmaster of the 3rd party sites if the negative review wasn’t posted directly to your business listing.  Some of these sites do allow you to post a “response from management” but that won’t show up in Google Maps.  (Google does not allow you to post this type of response)
  • Google lists 5-6 reviews so  you can solicit new reviews from satisfied customers in an effort to push the negative ones off the page.  Be careful, though; too many reviews being posted in a short period of time will trigger spam alerts and hurt your ranking.

Obviously, it helps to have a solid customer support system in place and an easy process for sharing feedback directly with you so these types of issues are not broadcast to the general public.  Reputation management is an important aspect of your daily marketing life and should be treated as such.

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Get People Talking About Your Business: Building Your Online Marketing Ecosystem Part XIV

By John Joyce on April 7, 2010 - Comments 0

You need to get people talking about your business.  Period.  Your product/service must offer an experience that compels customers to talk about you and recommend your business to their network of contacts.  Of course, there’s a flipside to this equation and that’s when someone has a negative experience with your business and they decide to share that information on social networks.  If you experience the latter, don’t run and hide; address the issue head-on and diffuse the situation within the same public forum it began.

To get started, visit each of these sites to determine if your business is listed and what people are saying.  Claim your business, manage the conversation and address issues as soon as possible.  You can’t make these sites go away so your best bet is to develop a strategy to make them work in your favor.  This is an yet another social medium that isn’t perfect and is continuously evolving and your strategy will have to do the same.

customer reviews and ratings services for small business

Click to see interactive online marketing ecosystem.

By now you’ve heard all the hoopla about Yelp having “long faced criticism that it gives preferential treatment to businesses that advertise with the company.”  Although Yelp maintains that there is no connection between the two, they did announce significant changes to the service this week.

Service providers like Yelp have proven how lucrative the local search advertising market is and Google is currently testing Enhanced Listings in Google Local Business Center that would allow business owners to create a unique, differentiated listing.  Google’s beta service currently offers the following:

  • Add yellow tags to promote coupons, a photo of your business, and more.
  • Stand out in local business results on Google & Google Maps.
  • See your performance in your account anytime.
  • Cancel anytime. Pay just $25 a month.

Will Google face the same scrutiny as Yelp?  We’ll have to see how this plays out but, if Google can collect $25 per month from a large percentage of small business owners, there’s a good chance we’ll see this rolled out in the near term.

The bottom line for businesses, especially “local” businesses, is to be aware of all these feedback sites and to monitor your reputation regularly.

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Help Your Customers Support Each Other: Building Your Online Marketing Ecosystem Part XIII

By John Joyce on April 6, 2010 - Comments 0

Now that you’ve disseminated your message across the entire universe, how are you going to interact with  customers who are looking for guidance but are spread across so many different platforms?  Enter web-based community support tools.

web-based community support tools

Click image to see interactive online marketing ecosystem.

As you can see from the graphic above, there are several options available and one that I see more an more often (since they’re now supported in Facebook and Google) is Get Satisfaction.  They allow you to interact with customers regardless of which community portal they’re using and are  easily extended throughout your Web presence via simple widgets and open APIs.  A Get Satisfaction community invites customers/visitors to participate in the conversation and provides a platform for conversation anywhere in the online experience.

busy small business ownerGetting your message to the masses is only half the battle when it comes to building your online marketing ecosystem.  You also have to consider which operational enhancements are required to automate the management of your online presence.  Proactively engaging prospects and customers allows for diffusing negativity and garnering valuable feedback and insight as you interact with your customers on an ongoing basis.

The greatest marketing challenge facing small business owners today is simple.  Lack of time.  But, if you can create a community in front of your support solution that lets customers and prospects get answers from each other first, (often with faster response times than through traditional ticketing solutions) you have created a virtual support department. You can publish, archive and search every exchange, so there’s never a need to answer the same question twice.

So, the main thing to remember is that online marketing is no longer a unidirectional process – it has evolved into a collaboration of community where instant feedback and conversation can mean the difference between success and missed opportunity.

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Building Your Online Marketing Ecosystem Part X: Vertical Communities

By John Joyce on March 25, 2010 - Comments 0

Effective Use of Social Networks for Small Business OwnersFacebook and similar networks where “socializing” is truly the main objective can be ineffective marketing platforms for many businesses. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a fan page for your business but, what I am saying is that you have to prioritize the amount of effort you provision for each online marketing vehicle based on simple ROTI.  (Return On Time Invested)  For each network, you must ask yourself 1) How do you find your target audience? 2) How do you convey your message in a way that is meaningful to them? 3) Should you be marketing to people who have become members of the mafia or have started a farm? (you know exactly what I’m talking about)

Wouldn’t it make more sense to put your effort into a network of like-minded business people who are actually interested in professional networking, business deals and partnerships? I have been using LinkedIn since 2003 when it was in beta and it is, by far, the most effective business networking tool I have ever used.

Vertical Social Networks for Small Business

Click image to view interactive online marketing ecosystem

Of course, the only way to know which network is best for your particular business model is to test both platforms.  An easy way to do this is to run some simple advertisements on LinkedIn and Facebook.  You set all demographic criteria to narrow down your target audience.  You can also set a daily limit for spend and choose to pay per click (PPC) or per thousand impressions (CPM).

Building your marketing ecosystem is a balancing act where you must test, evaluate, rinse and repeat.  It’s important to build your online presence but it’s even more important to optimize your efforts which is a perpetual learning experience.

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Building Your Online Marketing Ecosystem Part IX: Crowdsourced Buzz

By John Joyce on March 23, 2010 - Comments 1

small businesses using crowdsourcing to create buzz

We "digg" the stuff you write on your blog!

If the first two requirements of effective blogging are 1) an enticing headline and 2) valuable content, then #3 would be choosing a topic that is so hot that your readers are going to share it with the masses on sites like Digg and Reddit.  These types of crowdsourced buzz platforms allow the collective community to drive awareness and create buzz around user submitted news and blog posts.  As you have more than likely already learned,  the more posts you write, the better you’ll be able to understand what type of headlines and content are catching people’s attention and you’ll begin to discover your “voice”.  Promoting your blog to these platforms is a bit different from the basic SEO strategy implemented within your site, so I’ll review some of the specifics to help you develop your own “external buzz strategy”.  (Since Digg is currently the most popular platform, I’ll use that as my point of reference when citing examples and tactics)

Crowdsourced buzz for small business

Click image to see interactive online marketing ecosystem

Once a post makes it to one of these sites, you can notify your network to start fanning the flames by voting and forwarding the link.  Of course, as is true with many of these “exposure platforms”, there is etiquette that must be followed in the course of presenting content to the masses.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t submit your own content to Digg.  If possible, ask friends to submit for you.
  2. If your friends are going to submit your content, make sure they also submit additional content from other sources at the same time.
  3. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, write a compelling headline and description.
  4. Be active in the Digg community by voting, developing your profile and inviting friends.

This might sound like a lot of work but getting “Dugg on Digg” can drive substantial traffic to your site.  Actively participate in the community and you should be justly rewarded.

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