I’m an expert, how about you?

When you have a small business, minutes matter.  You have to stay focused, which is very hard to do in this chaotic business world in which many of us operate.  In the past, many companies operated and sold either locally or, at most, regionally.  Now, we are global.  So how can you differentiate your brand, in addition to your products and services?  Become the Expert!

I was reading Ivana Taylor’s article regarding influence (You 14 Step Roadmap to becoming an Influencer ) on openforum.com and it got me thinking…what can small businesses do to make themselves brand experts? 

Here are some ideas that I gleaned from Ivana with my additions (of course).

  • Put in the time—You truly do need to be an expert to claim that status (don’t be a poser!)…Ivana recommends 10,000 hours…that means that you have to be working full time in an industry for at least five years to claim expert status…totally doable!  Remember though, focus is key… I am not just a market research and marketing expert…I am an expert in B2B insurance market research and B2B insurance marketing (as well as other things…wink). 
  • Strategically Embrace Social media—there are a lot of things you can do through social media that will boost your expert status, but you can’t afford to waste time.  Here are my quick hit favorites:
    • LinkedIn—join 50 groups…it’s fast and easy; and, actively post articles and ask questions in the groups from which you think you will get the most “expert status” bump. 
    • Blog—Don’t do what I do…keep your blogs short and sweet…and do what I do…keep them on topic.  When you blog, use key words you want to own/be associated with your name/brand…like marketing, commercial insurance, Net Promoter Score.  If you have more time…I suggest you also place comments on other people’s blogs—it helps with Google juice!  Another idea would be to guest blog, but few of us have enough time to write our own blogs let alone blog for other people.  I would try to get them to repost one of the blogs you have already written.
    • Create a YouTube video—if you have a video camera and an internet connection, you are pretty much set.  Make the video really short (1 to 3 minutes, tops) and very informative and instructional.  Oh, and make it fun.    Post these videos on your website…more Google juice!
    • Publish…Your Data—if you collect and analyze data and can publish it…do so!   Nothing better than providing the world with useful information.  And, after you have published your data…write a press release about it.  It doesn’t cost that much to get your press releases run through the newswires. 
    • In-person Networking—yes, you need to get out there and meet people face to face, not just online.  To do this, I recommend joining associations and attending their conferences (to the extent it makes sense).  Service clubs like Rotary are great as well, but don’t just focus on local things and events.  
    • Speak/Join Panels/Webinars—most of us would rather jump off a bridge than speak publically; but, there are few better ways to build up your expert status than having documented proof that people are willing to pay for your advice.

There are a heck of a lot more ways to get your brand elevated to expert status, but these were my favorites.  And, as you have probably noticed, most of them are absolutely free (except for your time). 

What are you doing to elevate your brand status to expert?

Happy Marketing!

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Social Media and Living the Thank You Economy Dream…

I just finished the book The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and it got me wondering, what if we all lived in the Thank You Economy world instead of the I Win You, Lose world? And, of course the second part of the issue is…does Gary practice what he preaches…the answer, by the way, is YES!

If you know me, you know that I am a wine enthusiast. And, as such, I am always looking to try new (good) wines. So when I found out about the winelibrary.com from Gary’s book, I decided to give them a try. The site is very easy to navigate and I found plenty of quality wines to buy…I limited myself to 4 just to try them out. Though there are a few more (a lot more expensive ones) that I have my eye on. So who cares? Well I do, but it’s what happened next that was the important thing.

Great Thing: The very next day after my purchase, I got a call at work from the Wine Library thanking me for my recent purchase. Can you imagine that? A personal call…in addition to the automatic email I received. I was floored. How impressive!

Not so Good Thing: The girl (ok woman, but she sounded really, really young…perhaps not even old enough to drink the wine I just purchased) had not been trained well enough to be on the phone with customers…particularly brand new customers. It seemed to me that she had just been given a list with customers’ phone numbers and then told call these people and thank them for their order. On the surface this seems fine right? But, the call was extremely awkward. The gal said “hi it’s so and so from the winelibrary.com and I am calling to thank you for your order.”  Dead space. Me: “ok.” Dead space. “Um, do you have any questions?” Me: “I saw on your website that you are having a shipping delay due to the weather, when do you think my order will ship.”  Gal: “You will get an email when it ships.”  Me: “So you have no idea when it will ship?”   Gal: “No.”  The call ends soon after that. So, the moral of the story is that she needed a script or at the very least an outline. Gary doesn’t think so…but I humbly disagree. 

Kinda Awesome Thing: Since I am following Gary on twitter, I thought I would see if we could converse about this experience I had. The whole purpose was to let him, the owner know, that he is losing the effectiveness of his thank you calls because at least one of the people making the calls (the gal I talked with) was not trained enough—just trying to help. Interestingly, I know that Gary detests having scripted calls. Being a marketer and a market researcher, I am dedicated to such things. So I expected a lively discussion. I tweeted Gary that he needed to improve his thank you calls. Within an hour of me posting the tweet, he sent me two tweets asking me what was up and letting me know that he didn’t believe in scripted calls. I explained what happened and why I thought it was necessary.

Did he say he was going to look into it? No. Did he say he would do anything? No. Did he thank me for even letting him know he has an issue? No. So the experience was just kinda awesome. He responded to the tweet, but he didn’t say anything more than the questions he posed. I don’t have closure. Oh well, I accomplished my goal…I let him know he had a problem.  As, a potentially long-term customer for winelibrary.com, hopefully I will have eventually helped the process. 

The key to the story for me is that Gary is living in the Thank You Economy and I think all businesses could benefit from living in this type of economy. But please remember…don’t let your process show while living in this Thank You Economy.

Happy Marketing!

Social media = brand engagement

In my last blog, I’ve talked about the fact that we are now in the age of the consumer.  Today I want to further this discussion by talking about some stats put out recently by emarketer. Specifically, I want to talk about some research conducted by ROI Research and how the majority of consumers are using social media to provide feedback (and connect) with brands.

In this research, ROI Research found that people using social media to discuss products and services on social sites were:

• Price shopping (59%)

Talking about offers (56%) <–as a marketer…this really excites me! 

• Providing feedback (53%)

• Giving advice (50%)

• Telling others where to purchase items online (49%)

Expressing disappointment about a product or service (47%) <–I have done this many times!

• Tell folks where to purchase items offline (47%)

• Talking to customer service (36%)—WOW!

Another great bit of information about how consumers engage with brands comes from a study from a MarketTools survey. In this survey, they found that although US travelers may be embracing social networks to express feedback more frequently than in the past, social media as a feedback or customer service channel is still in its infancy.

This study is near and dear to my heart considering I blasted Southwest Airlines for bad customer service through all forms of social media for them to completely ignore me. Oh well, they do offer cheap flights as long as you aren’t traveling across the country.

What are you doing to engage your customers through social media? 

Happy Marketing!

In the Age of the Consumer, Engagement is King!

While it’s usually used to describe the housing market, the phrase “it’s a buyer’s market” now describes most consumer markets.  Why? The amount and depth of information that is available at the consumers’ fingers of course.

I was just reading the blog by Josh Bernoff entitled Welcome to the Age of the Customer. Invest accordingly and it really had me thinking…as a researcher and a marketer, what does this shift to the “age of the consumer” mean to me?   I am guessing lots.   If this topic interests you, I highly recommend you (buy and) read the full report from Forrester on the topic.   Click here to go to the report site.

Here’s a great chart that Forrester has put together explaining how the influence of the consumer has changed over the years.  Basically it shows the balance of power shifting from the manufacturer to the consumer and the impetuous being access to information.

So at the end of the day what does the age of the consumer mean?  It means that we marketers need to think engagement rather than revenue.  We need to focus our resources on building the appropriate sharing and engagement tools—and this has to go beyond social media.  This means we need to keep in contact with our customers and prospects.  At the company I work for, we use a marketing automation system to nurture our prospects and keep our customers engaged.

Now—back to my market research side…as a market researcher, the age of the consumer has serious ramifications.  These ramifications range from more and more people trying out DIY market research (probably much to their detriment), the touch points that need to be measured in our customer satisfaction and loyalty, transaction and AAU (attitudes, awareness and usage) studies are going to increase significantly. And, the way in which we complete surveys is also going to change.  And, we need to be prepared for the change.  It’s not just conducting studies via telephone and online, we also have to consider mobile surveys and virtual focus groups.  So many choices, so little time!

While we are truly facing a brave new world, it can be lucrative for those who build their operating and marketing strategy around customer engagement first, and revenue generation second.

How are you engaging your customers and prospects in this age of the consumer?

Happy Marketing!

Metrics, metrics everywhere and not a fan in sight!

A little overwhelmed with all the social media metrics being thrown around lately?  Me too.  Having a more traditional slant than most digital marketers today, I really like having something concrete on which to hang my metrics hat.  That said, I am willing to stretch and grow as it relates to measuring digital and social media metrics.

As I have said in the past, I am all about ROI when it comes to metrics…specifically, a ROI based on profit, not just revenue.  In the social world, the “tail” for the sales cycle is much longer, so measuring other things while you are on the path to a sale is key. 

So what should you be measuring with respect to your digital and social media marketing spend?  It depends on your business, but here are three of my favorite interim measurements that you should be watching:

  • Engagement Score (ES):  Evaluating your engagement score is a bit more involved than some of the other measurements I am suggesting, but it can be done even by a novice.  The key is to determine what should go into your engagement score.   Specifically, you need to spend time thinking about what an engaged prospect or customer looks like for your business and craft a measurement that fits these criteria.    I would also use a weighted score when crafting the score so that I give more weight to some criteria than others.  But hey, that’s just me.
  • Brand Perception Lift:  Finally, back to market research!  Another great way to tell if your social media and digital marketing efforts are working is through consistently measuring your brand perception (and awareness) among your current and prospect customers.  This will give you an idea of the lift you are getting from the resources you are putting into your online marketing efforts.
  • Leads Generated:  As I said before, it will take time for your digital efforts to bear fruit.  However, your efforts should be getting prospective customers into the pipeline and further and further down the purchase funnel.  If your efforts aren’t getting people converted from a prospect to a real lead, then you should re-evaluate your digital/social media marketing resource allocation.

The two main “old school” measurements of online marketing I use are:

  • Qualified Reach or Qualified Visits—in traditional advertising, we have long used the word reach to describe the amount of people that should be viewing our advertising.  But, past that, we can’t really tell if the message got through the clutter or if the “reached” person actually did anything as a result of our ad.  In the digital age, we have evolved to measuring qualified reach, which is a metric that combines the number of individuals reached by the online advertising/marketing with the number of users that have performed a desired interaction.
  • Clickthrough rates:  In the digital world, this is the “tried and true” method.  This gives you a one-to-one measurement for dollars spent and prospects generated.  The only problem with this metric is that it doesn’t measure intent to purchase or even interest necessarily.  So it is important to measure, but it can’t be the only thing you measure.

So what are U.S. Marketers using to measure interactive marketing performance?  According to a study recently conducted by Chief Marketer (reported through eMarketer), its:  clickthroughs (59%), traffic to websites (53%), lead generation (43%) and page views (38%).   Where did my beloved ROI fall?  It was all the way down at 6th place with just 32% saying it was a measure they used to evaluate interactive marketing efforts.  Oh, and brand lift?  It is measured by just one-in-four (25%).

Measuring the success of your traditional and digital marketing efforts can be long and arduous…but worth it.  How are you measuring your success?

Happy Marketing!

Bad photoretouching = Bad advertising

Photo credit

Bad graphic design and more specifically bad Photoshop work is the bane of the advertising world’s existence–especially when people (such as our target audience) notice. 

Over the years, I have seen some pretty bad work, some done by professionals and some done by amateurs.  

Want to know how to spot a fake or a mistake like a pro?  Here’s how.  Look for:

Strange or bad shadows—while a photo may look perfect, the graphic artist will likely miss the mark when it comes to accurately portraying the shadows associated with the people or objects in the picture.  Worst yet…they probably knwo that the shadow problem exists but don’t want to spend the time to fix it.   They are betting you (and their client) wont notice (see picture above).

Soulless eyes—they say that your eyes are the window to your soul.  Well that may be, but when it comes to spotting “fixed” eyes, it’s pretty easy, especially when there is more than one person in the photo.  To spot the changed-out eyes, you just need to look for the eye position..are everyone’s eyes in the same position?  And you need to look at the lightness of the eyes. If they swapped out the better eyes from a different picture, it is likely the angle was different.  If that’s the case, the brightness of the eyes will be different between the people.

Cloning—too much grass in the picture?  Is the pool a bit longer than it should be?  The graphic designer probably took something out of the picture and had to make up for it by cloning the background around the missing piece to fill in the space.  Cloning isn’t a problem…unless you can see it.

Bad  blending—even those good with Photoshop can have what we call fringe problems.   This occurs when the edges or fringes of an object doesn’t fit the back ground.  To detect this problem, look at the fringe or edge of an object to see if the background looks consistent both from a color and shape perspective.  Edges can also look too sharp or too soft.

The no freaking way factor—this is what I call the “does it make sense part?”.  This is where we use our collective brains to determine if what we are seeing makes sense…like a shark jumping out of the ocean in an attempt to catch a helicopter.  While a cool picture…not realistic.  FAIL!

Want to see some Photoshop failures?  Check out this link:  http://www.boredpanda.com/worst-photoshop-mistakes/ 

Can you spot a fake?

Happy Marketing!

What is a small business…?

Well, you thought you knew, but the SBA would like to change all that (it’s a proposal…not for certain).  Now, before you get your hackles up…I believe what they are doing is a good thing.  They are basically getting with the times. 

Here’s what the SBA said in their press release:

A proposed rule published today for comment in The Federal Register by the U.S. Small Business Administration would adjust the size definition of small businesses in the transportation and warehousing sector to reflect changes in marketplace conditions in those sectors. 

 The proposed revisions would increase the revenue-based size definition businesses must meet to qualify as small businesses in 22 industries of the transportation and warehousing sector. As part of its ongoing comprehensive review of all size standards, the SBA evaluated all industries in this sector that have revenue-based size standards to determine whether the size standards should be retained or revised. 

So what does this mean for you?  Well if you work in the transportation and warehousing sector and you are bidding on government jobs…a lot!   Basically, in the past, if you were reaching the size limit…you couldn’t make any more in revenue to retain your eligibility to bid on government jobs (as a small business).   Now, you have a bit more wiggle room!

Here’s what the SBA also said:

The changes would allow some small businesses that are close to exceeding their current size standards to retain small business eligibility under higher size standards, give federal agencies a larger selection of small businesses to choose from for small business procurement opportunities and allow small businesses to qualify for financial assistance from the SBA.  SBA estimates as many as 1,200 additional firms will become eligible for SBA programs as a result of the proposed revisions, if they are adopted. 

Here’s the new data that I prettied up for you!

For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards, click on “What’s New” on SBA’s Web site at:  http://www.sba.gov/size.

Are you breathing a sigh of relief on this proposed change?  I am!

Happy marketing!

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