Posted on | November 21, 2012 | No Comments
You are not that special. That truth shall set you free. I’m speaking to you, B2B company, the one obsessing over the low fan count on your Facebook page. You’re asking, “What’s wrong with our Page? Why can’t we get more Fans? Why are we stuck on 200 Likes?” You are consulting with every self-appointed Facebook guru, and you dutifully follow their recommendations or hand over a nice chunk of change for an app, content, or cover photo. You get a little bump, and feel good about life again… until the page plateaus and you’re essentially right back where you started. Back to obsessing, until you eventually burn out and stop believing that your clients are even spending time on Facebook at all.
I’m not going to say anything revolutionary here. We need to tell you something that you already know, but perhaps haven’t applied it to social media. You are niche. You do not have the mass appeal or brand awareness that many consumer-focused companies enjoy. You are not Coke, Wal-Mart, or Lady Gaga. You are kind of bland to those who are not interested in your industry or business-oriented products and services. You will never be liked by thousands upon thousands of Americans across a wide span of demographics. Instead, you probably have some very loyal customers who like you because they have experienced your product or service while they encountering you in their own work life. Your B2B clients total in the hundreds, maybe thousand. Not in the 6 figures or millions like the consumer brands who you Like and Follow on your favorite social network.
B2B Facebook pages will always have a ceiling in terms of growth. But that is not a bad thing. The fans you have, no matter the total number, are more engaged in many cases than B2C pages that post constantly to a gigantic group of fans, most of whom are ignoring their posts anyway. As a B2B, you have a unique opportunity to really get close to your fans with content that speaks to their interests, because you know them so well. You know them better than many large consumer companies know their own customers because you have a more manageable customer base that you can survey or to speak one-on-one to gather data about them. You may not have the sophistication of a large B2C, but you do have the advantage of being more relevant to your fans because you know they’ve Liked you for reasons important to their professional live or other reason that hits close to home for them.
My point is, please don’t get frustrated with Facebook. Know what it is, what it can do for you, and consider it just one piece of the puzzle in your marketing mix.
Posted on | June 10, 2011 | No Comments
From my vantage point, there is a greater sense of urgency among businesses today to bring project management expertise in-house to help organize and formalize the creation and roll-out of new projects. Generally speaking, large companies have a more immediate need to adopt project management (PM) as an essential approach to coordinating lots of moving parts and people involved in a new project or process. PM lends structure, milestones, agreed-upon goals, objectives, and timelines to hold all team members accountable. Having good team leaders involved in every project is essential, as well, or the project can break down from a lack of assertiveness and organization put forth by the leader to manage the work of a cross-functional team.
Why don’t more smaller companies use project management, or some derivation of PM, to make the project creation easier on them? I think there is a fear of the formality, that their staff will shy away from the work involved because it may take them away from how they manage their other responsibilities. Their own way of managing their work may be quite casual, and self-chosen based on their preferred way to move about their day. Project management has the stigma, and rightly so, that there are steps, check-ins, milestones, processes, and deadlines that are required in order for each team member to fulfill their responsibilities within the project. But what is forgotten by those who shrug off the idea of PM is they will more likely see greater, and more visible, return on their investment of time and work, and even better, they will see how their own contributions made a difference on the success of the project.
Bottom line is that Project Management isn’t an obstacle in the creative process. Project Management can enable the creative process to be realized in the form of successful outcomes from what otherwise may just be a handful of good ideas. That lack of organization and cohesion can make the project merely run in place. Any company can use PM to increase their rate of success in the delivery of projects.
As I pursue “project manager” employment at companies that leverage my online marketing background, I find that creative agencies, in particular, have grasped the project manager role as an essential member of their client marketing deliveries. Only, the PM (project manager) is not merely a paper-pusher as perhaps they once were defined. In the agency environment, the PM is the point-person within the team of cross-discipline members, managing timelines, budgets, and balancing client expectations with internal work. But more than that, the PM is a participant in the upfront brainstorm and scoping meetings, interfacing with the client to manage their ideas with those of the marketing expertise the client has hired the agency to leverage for them. Today, the project manager is an exciting role, and (non-agency) corporations, from small to large, would be smart to utilize the PM in a similar fashion: team leader as well as creative thinker.
The ideal project manager in any organization offers these 5 qualities:
- Superior Organization Skills
- Ability to Lead with Passion
- Multi-Tasker to the Highest Degree
- Creative, Quick Thinker
- Unafraid to Press the Team Members to Meet Expectations
Any company can use these skills in a team leader, and even if formal project management tools are not being used, I’d urge any company to select or hire a team member who possesses these qualities to guide their projects. Don’t just hand off a project to a couple people and ask them to meet the objective. There’s a lot between “start” and “finish” that can arise to throw the project off course, in which case you’ve invested a lot of man-hours into a project that will either go nowhere or not deliver on the objectives.
Posted on | March 16, 2011 | 2 Comments
“You Look Marvelous, Darling, because in Ricardo’s world, it’s not how you look, it’s how you feel…” – Billy Crystal as Ricardo on SNL
I won’t hold you in suspense. No, websites do not have to look marvelous to be marvelous. Long gone are the days when it was common to land on a site that obviously put 90% of their effort into the design. And, at some point, they’d add some good content little by little. For the visual thinkers out there, sometimes it’s easier to see the design to conceptualize their content and how it might flow from page to page.
Or, are those days really long gone?
I have encountered many small to mid-size businesses that report they need a new “website design.” While they may not intend only for a new design, that term seems to be pretty on-target with what they really do intend. A new design at least gives their company a facelift, they think, and when they have that done it will be easy to post text to the pages as time allows. The problem is that the time never does allow, the content never seems to get its due attention, and what lingers out there for the world to see is a site that is merely a sign on the front of their door. When their potential customers walk inside, there’s not much there at all.
So, what I am saying is that an effective website needs a balance of both good design and good content. And if either of the two has to be sacrificed for any reason, I say that design should take a bit of a hit in that battle for your attention. Ultimately, what your site visitors have come to your site for is to learn about something, consider your products and services, and come away with a perspective on your site’s topic that has been enhanced in some way. A good-looking structure and design around that content is key, of course. Design should serve to draw in the visitor, to give off a sense of what the brand is all about.
However, especially in this era of the more discerning, web-savvy consumer, content is king. A company or individual responsible for “designing” a website should take content into greater consideration earlier on in the design than in the last stretch of the marathon.
Posted on | February 24, 2011 | 9 Comments
In growing list of national food establishments offering customer rewards program, the Subway® program would have to rank near or at the bottom of the list in user-friendliness. I say this as a loyal customer who would visit the establishment even if they had no rewards program to offer.
Here is the Subway Rewards program, in a nutshell:
- Pick up a card at any participating Subway restaurant
- Register the card online by signing in at mysubwaycard.com
- Get the card swiped whenever you make a purchase at Subway
- Collect points for each purchase
- As you accumulate points, use them for future purchases.
Here are the flaws in the Subway Rewards program:
- There is no easy way to identify what your card balance equates to in food items, The only place I’ve found that information is in their FAQ on their mysubwaycard.com site.
- Right away, upon logging in, I expect to see my current rewards balance and what food items I’ve earned. Instead, what I see is my card number, and a number that must be my rewards balance. I can click that card number, but nothing informative appears, like what food items I can get for free in exchange for my past loyalty.
- I shouldn’t have to log in with an email address and password to check my balance. Subway makes me log in to see my card balance, just like Starbucks does on their site. But I prefer the Barnes & Noble experience for balance-checking. All a card holder should need to do is type in the card number and maybe the PIN.
- How about giving the option for a keychain tag, instead of the card that is adding to my wallet’s double-digit weight (picture George Costanza’s exploding wallet!).
Finally, I don’t believe that your Rewards balance appears on your receipt after the Subway sandwich artist swipes your card. I will confirm that today, when I show my loyalty again to my nearby Subway.
UPDATE: I checked my Subway receipt today, and I can give some kudos back to Subway for putting my rewards card balance on the receipt.
Posted on | February 10, 2011 | No Comments
In business, it’s easier to say “no” than it is to say “yes.” “No” means your CEO doesn’t have to approve budget-spending. He doesn’t have to read the proposal you’ve put on his desk. He won’t have to worry that he made the wrong decision about putting manpower on your new project instead of focusing on projects already in the works.
The truth of it all is this: Your CEO would be more apt to say “yes” if your ideas were more well-formed, and based on filling an existing need instead of enhancing what already is working well. The reason they say “no” is, way too often, your ideas are one-dimensional. They are a band-aid to one problem that won’t really have an effect on the bottomline.
I think the winning approach to presenting a new idea is, well… don’t present it. At least, not until you can expand that idea into more than one area of the business that could benefit from your solution to a problem. What I’m getting at is that we are too eager to jump for joy around the office and fire away that email to our boss, or the CEO, and expect a blue ribbon to be slapped on our chest. We don’t “bake” our ideas in a metaphorical kiln. Would you rather present an idea in “concept” or in real, practical terms? What version is going to get the CEO’s attention more? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather drink out of a cup that’s been through the kiln instead of one that is still mushy and liable to fall apart.
Even if your CEO still says “no” to those ideas that have been well-thought-out, baked, and planned and presented in a thorough way, you will gain the reputation of one who doesn’t fire without aiming, who doesn’t spout off ideas with no basis in any real business need. And that solid reputation will earn you more attention from your CEO, who will more likely say “YES” to your idea some day than if you gave him raw, uncooked ideas time and time again.
Posted on | December 21, 2010 | No Comments
As we reflect on the year 2010, and how social media evolved into a more-widely adopted business communication channel, we should be excited when we look ahead to social media’s continued evolution in 2011. What new paths will be created to provide valuable content to consumers? Which social networks will take a leap forward, and which will fall outside our daily consciousness?
Yet, I am discouraged by some of the tactics marketers have used this 2010 (and prior) to gain people’s attention, even if it meant risking the loss of their community’s attention as a result. Such efforts make those brands appear desperate for comments, clicks, and cash. We all can do a better job in some particular area, including myself, of being good social media citizens.
Let’s toast to a better social media year in 2011.
Here are some possible New Year’s Social Media Resolutions for 2011 that we could adopt:
10. Don’t send Twitter RT’s that don’t have substance. I don’t need a “thanks for following me.” I really don’t need a link to your blog, either. I can find it myself if I am inclined.
9. Don’t wonder why you’re not getting a following if you aren’t linking to your social profiles from your other online entities.
8. Don’t stoop to contests to get attention. Most people will turn their attention elsewhere when the contest ends. An occasional contest is fine, but not as a routine practice.
7. Don’t leave your photo off your LinkedIn profile. It may seem like a minor thing, but a photo does make you appear more personable and approachable.
6. Don’t start social networking without a plan. Decide who your audience is, and what type of content they will value. Stick with it, even if the community-building is slow.
5. Don’t be predictable. If you post about the same topic over and over, people will just gloss over you. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were them?
4. Don’t be self-serving. If your community sees that everything you do is to promote your business, they’ll leave you. Be an information resource for your industry; you can toss in the occasional offer or promotion, but only occasionally.
3. Don’t push me into a corner by making me unsubscribe from all of your emails. Maybe I just want them less frequently – but you wouldn’t know, because my only choice is to unsubscribe completely.
2. Don’t give up. If you don’t think your community is growing quickly, don’t blame the community for failing to adopt you. Look in the mirror, change things up, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask what’s missing, what content niche you could serve.
1. Don’t treat your social media community as a commodity. You may be able to replace the quantities of people that follow you, but you can not replace the individuality of each of your followers. The best kind of social community is the kind that not only teaches you about their needs regarding your brand, but also helps each other – at the individual to individual level – to both advocate for your brand as well as provide consumer-focused recommendations, insights, and irreplaceable tips. Your social profiles should be hubs of information.
Posted on | November 20, 2010 | No Comments
Here is my formula to help define if the content that a social network content manager wants to post is high quality and worth their community’s time and attention.
Value: If the content you are posting is not of value to your community, then it’s not worth posting at all. Likely, if it doesn’t have value to your community, it’s probably something only YOU care about. The content doesn’t have to have an impact on everyone in your community, but definitely for a large portion. Be educational, be insightful, share insider tips, and provide exclusive content that only your community can access.
Varied: Change up your content all the time. Putting out the same type of content, like special offers or posts about only one subject, will make you predictable and boring. It just takes some consideration of what your community really wants to know, and asking why they are following or liking you. Did you promise content that you aren’t delivering? There’s a good chance you have content in your arsenal that you haven’t considered posting. You can even come up with weekly posts around the same subject, like Tuesday Tips for Teeth (if you’re a dentist).
Viral: Does your content have good potential to be spread out beyond your community? Ideally, there are friends and followers of the people in your community who haven’t discovered you, and that viral content can catch their attention if shared by members of your community. It just needs to have the legs to move 2, 3, 4 degrees out beyond your peeps. Videos are great viral content, as are how-to’s and special offers to community members. I will caution you not to be focused on making ALL of your content viral. Doing so will cause your content to lean too far to the promotional angle, which is okay in small doses, but not constantly.
Most of all, as social content managers, you want to share your expertise, information, and tips from which you have a unique perspective to share. You want your community to always be paying attention, and to do so you need those followers and fans to expect value, to see varied topics and content, and to see occasional posts that your community members can share with their friends in order to share that value.
Posted on | November 12, 2010 | No Comments
I had the opportunity this week to do some public speaking, on the topic of social media for business professionals. I presented it to a local chapter of the National Association of Credit Management (NACM). They were a very responsive and professional audience, and I was very honored to receive their invitation. Here is a version of the opening of my presentation:
I made the case (I hope) that traditional, offline business networking is great, and I take nothing away from that activity. But how do you supplement that networking in between conferences, seminars and trade shows? If you only network a few times a year, how do you expect to really build the kind of professional connections that will help you, as a business person, and your company? Collecting a few business cards and coming back to the office satisfied with the outcome just doesn’t seem realistic to me. Maybe 10, 20 years ago, but not in this era of so many online networking tools available to us.
Take a look at the slides I linked to above, and let me know what you think. Is this approach a strong way to help social networking non-believers get over that doubt that online networking should play a part in their professional lives?
Posted on | April 16, 2010 | 1 Comment
This weekend, I will begin a project to disassemble a friend’s deck so that we can use the (free) wood to construct a deck in our backyard. Just in case you are wondering, yes, I have permission from our friend! I suppose it would be quite a prank, though, to take down a friend’s deck while they are away, then wait behind the bushes to see the shock and awe. Note to self: Perform this prank before I die on someone I don’t like!
With mallet, hammer, socket wrench and work gloves, I will tear that monstrous deck apart and hope I don’t break a leg. Anything (almost) is worth fulfilling the dream of having some semblance of a deck in our backyard, where a sad slab of cracked concrete currently sits outside our backdoor. I really should take a photo of that poor piece of crap that looks as if ten earthquakes hit our house. I think I lost a shoe in that crack last year! China, can you mail it back to me?
So, I am not, by any means, what you would call a handy fellow. My one and only proficiency when it comes to home improvement is installing ceiling fans. I gained that mastery by installing ceiling fans in nearly every room in our house. So, if on the news this weekend you hear a funny story about a man, a mallet, and a deck that fell upon him, you’ll know that unidentified pancake of a man is yours truly.
Well, on to the topic of this post…. looking for analogy in the mess that I am about to undertake. It really does kinda match up well with disassembling a website. There are lots and lots of websites out there that have way too much clutter. There’s junk in corners and crevices of pages that distract the visitors from the important content. More often than not, the content managers of those sites stuff that junk into empty areas because there’s no other space to put it. Kind of like that room in your house that has become the storage closet for the muck and mire of your life (we all have some of that!).
Simplifying a site from time to time is a necessity. You might say you have a reason for every ounce of content on your website. You might feel as though taking away some of that content today would result in a lost customer tomorrow. Don’t be over-dramatic. Put yourself in their shoes: Would you rather wade through tons of content that is useless to you to find the content that you are seeking, or would you prefer to land on a website and see clear paths to your desired content?
Oh yeah, back to that deck. Sometimes, a nice, simple deck offers a better experience than a monstrous, elaborate deck. Sometimes, a deck is too overpowering for its own good. Disassembling that deck to make one that fits the needs of its users is the best approach. Same goes for websites.
I’ll let you know how the deck disassembly goes… and maybe post photos, too! Wish me luck.
Posted on | March 31, 2010 | No Comments
Do you want your company to be known as the number one thought-leader and expert in your industry? Could you stand to make improvements in your lead generation efforts, to gain more hot prospects instead of chasing the luke-warm ones? If your answers to both questions are “Yes” (as they should be), webinars are a proven tool you can use to achieve these goals.
Pick a few topics or issues that are key in your industry, that meet these criteria:
1. Current hot-buttons that your customers face
2. General appeal or applicable to a wide audience
3. Easy to explain and present (primarily non-technical)
4. Can use real-world examples that your product or service can solve
Read up on webinars, such as from Webex or GoToMeeting. For a small investment in one of these services, you can schedule free or paid audio/video sessions with people interested in the topics you present. Has your email list become stagnate? There’s a good chance you can revitalize those lists by offering an educational session about a topic in your industry, or common questions or concerns that people face when evaluating the products and services you sell. Only at the end of the webinar should you mention how to get in touch with you to learn more about your company.
For instance, a financial service company may want to offer a series of webinars on mortgage issues. Or, a web agency could present some how-to’s on selecting the right web design or SEO company. By inviting people to attend your webinars, you show that you care about more than getting their business, and in doing so they will think of you when they are ready to buy because you have shown that you are a leader in your field. Being an educator puts you ahead of the pack of those who just sell, sell, and sell.
To start, create a Powerpoint presentation on the topic you want to present in your webinar. Don’t try to fit in too much. A succinct presentation, though it may cover a small portion of what you really want to present, will go over much better than one that is overloaded with information that will bury them. Next, decide who in your company will present the webinar. This should be someone who is well-spoken and can answer questions with authority. Once you have signed up with your webinar provider, schedule the webinar and send an invitation to your lists. Plaster the webinar details in every social network, direct mail, or any other channel you have at your disposal. Ultimately, you not only want to re-invigorate your existing list but gain NEW people who may be future customers. Finally, once you host your webinar, be sure to record it in a file that people can download at a later time. You may even choose to offer it as a free download. Depending on your industry, it may make more sense for you to offer both the live webinar and the recording for a reasonable price. Gauge the interest of the topic and price it accordingly.
I hope this idea becomes a key channel for you to gain new potential customers and a new way for your brand to gain a reputation as a leader in your industry.
If you need any more detail or guidance on how to set up your webinars, and some best practices, contact me.
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