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Arriving late?

Today’s guest post is for those business owners arriving late at the “social media party”.

For those making an entrance, business-wise, here’s a nice social media startup guide from the NYTimes’ “You’re The Boss” blog.

It talks about restaurants specifically, but the advice is sound regardless of what your business does.

As usual, salt to taste.

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Throw The Fastball

I get a fairly steady flow of referrals and hope you’ve done at least some of what I’ve suggested so you can get them too.

Sometimes folks looking for pretty specific gigs are referred to me as well.

I appreciate these referrals as much as the “Hey, this business needs your help” kind.

Who are you?

When I send someone to help a business owner, it has to be a good fit. On rare occasions, people are sent to me that I don’t know. In those cases, it’s tough to refer them unless I can find them online and learn about them and their work. Remember, my reputation is on the line with the referral as much as anyone’s.

Imagine these possible scenarios…

  • I get an email asking for a referral as a writer, yet the email is terribly written.
  • I get a voice mail touting their skills in sales, yet the voice mail struggles to sell me on calling them back.
  • I get an email asking for website building work, yet they include a link to a website that looks like it was built in 1998.
  • I can’t find them on Google.
  • I’ve never heard of them or their work.

Those situations are extremely rare, but as you probably figured…there’s a point to all this.

Picking at it

Point being – It’s not much different than what you face when talking with a prospect.

Without a referral, they don’t know you from Adam (or Eve).

Until you pick up the phone, email them, send a mail piece or (horrors!) stand face to face with them, all you can depend on is your word-of-mouth reputation and what search engines tell them is all they have.

Let’s go back over that list again from that viewpoint:

  • They get an email from you, yet your email is terribly written.
  • They get a voice mail from you that struggles to address their question/need.
  • They can’t find what they need on your website, which looks like it was built in 1998.
  • They can’t find you on Google.
  • They’re not familiar with your work and their friends/co-workers don’t know you.

Is that the first impression you make? And have you Google’d yourself lately?

Chin music

Think about the baseball players in the picture. How does the pitcher make a first impression?

Quite often with a hard inside fastball, close to the batter’s chin.

What makes your first impression? What are you repeatedly doing to build a reputation BEFORE they need you?

By the way, if I sent you the guy in the photo’s front row, third from the left, and you owned a baseball team…you’d be a happy owner. His name is Walter Johnson.

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Groping for opportunity – a gift from the #TSA

Russet
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nicholas_T

Much noise has been made of the mess that has become airport security.

The recent introduction of TSA’s high resolution body scanners and the “pat downs” (formerly known as “getting to second base”) have stirred up a hornet’s nest of grass roots discontent.

As you might expect, there has been much hand-wringing in political circles over the issue.

Attempts have been made to position the changes as part of the political agenda of both parties, but anyone with a brain has watched these changes develop during the recent domain of each.

Flathead Beacon editor Kellyn Brown noted earlier this week that a recent New Yorker blog post revealing editorial cartoons dating back to the 1930’s predicted exactly what we’re seeing today.

You’ll find people on both sides of the aisle that aren’t too happy about the situation…but today’s post isn’t about politics.

It’s about opportunity.

Opportunity? What opportunity?

It’s a chance to say “look at me!” for the thousands of communities that you can visit and have a great time in with your family and/or friends – without getting groped by someone who has worn the same pair of gloves to check the last 42 people through the line.

I’m talking about every town whose hub airport doesn’t have the full body scanners and therefore doesn’t (currently) have the “pat down”.

It’s a silly little thing in some ways, but it’s at the top of the news these days – which is why I bring it up as a tool for your use.

Whether we’re talking about parents with young kids and/or teenagers, or those who aren’t so sure about the conflicting claims of doctors and Federal agencies regarding the radiation the scanners utilize, it’s a sticking point for a lot of folks.

If you want your beds filled, your restaurant tables turning twice as often, or your attraction filled to the gills, how you feel about the scanners and pat downs isn’t nearly as important as how your potential customers feel about them.

Yes, that goes for most things, but in this case, it’s an angle that big city tourism cannot use.

Getting started

So…open a map and a browser and a few airline and train schedules and make a list of the communities that can get to and from your place without encountering the latex glove – and without umpteen changes of planes and airlines.

Just because they can get there with planes, trains and automobiles doesn’t mean they want that kind of hassle.

Next, and this is the part a lot of folks will skip, look at your existing visitor history. I hope you already know this, but if you don’t, you should still have the data.

What are the top three, five, ten (whatever) most-visitors-from cities in your visitor history that are *also* on the list of “no-scan, no-grope” communities?

Do unto others

It’s becoming obvious now: Some cooperative advertising is in the cards.

Can your small town (or not) Chamber and/or tourism board contact theirs? You could do it on your own.

Trade out some tit-for-tat advertising.

For example, their chamber can send an email blast to their members and include an insert in their print newsletter about the fun stuff that you can do in your beautiful area. Your chamber can return the favor.

I hear the objections already. But they won’t cooperate. Or they have fewer members than we do so it isn’t fair.

Horse biscuits.

Chase down those dozen communities, even if you have to approach similar competition in those areas. Each of you have something to gain from adventures such as these.

Who knows, you might even find some synergy that outlasts the TSA ridiculousness and allows you to create an annual program for cross promotion.

It isn’t about egos. It’s about visitors.

Money loves speed

It’s also about speed. You can’t wait 90 days to make this happen.

TSA is top of the news now and on peoples’ minds now, so you must grab the train as it goes by and climb aboard.

Next month or next week, there might be something else you can latch onto. Perhaps what you learn from this exercise will make that effort even more successful.

Finally, you don’t need to wait for someone to make news. You can create your own, but it still requires lots of coordination and low egos to benefit.

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Fishing on Facebook

A common question I’m asked by small business owners is: “Should I use ‘bright shiny object of the month’ to market my business?

Lately, the question tends to be asked in the context of Facebook, but quite frankly, the answer is the same regardless of the magic solution you’re asking about.

As always, the answer is “Fish where the fish are.”

You’d never fish for westslope cutthroat trout in a midwest farm pond. Or at least…you’d never catch any cuts if you did try to fish there.

But..back to Facebook

In the context of Facebook, we’re still talking about people who care about the product or service you provide.

Let me rephrase that: What they really care about is what your product/service does for THEM; caring about you is way down the food chain.

And while it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Facebook or the Weekly World News, I’ll continue in the context of Facebook because there are a few Facebook-specific things to consider.

Ask yourself…

You have to ask yourself a series of questions about the pond you want to fish in.

Can I specifically identify the kind of prospective customers I want to meet? (No is not a valid answer – no matter what you sell)

Do those prospective customers hang out on Facebook?

A question you might not have considered…are your customers mostly women? And are they mostly women in their prime buying years?

If you take a look at the demographics of Facebook users (here, here, here and here), you’ll find that (currently) about 55% of Facebook users are women and the biggest group of women on Facebook are 35-55 years young (Tom Peters would be yelling at you not to ignore this market if he were here).

BUT…the key point is still “Are they actively using Facebook and having a conversation that involves what you do?”

Joining the conversation

Is your product or service the sort of thing that people tend to talk about around the water cooler, the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game or similar? That’s the same kind of conversation that occurs on Facebook.

If your Tribe meets on Facebook, you should be there and join the conversation.

If you were on the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game and the conversation turned to a topic that you are an expert on, would you ignore the people having the conversation or would you join in?

I’m guessing you’d gently find a way to join the conversation.

If you were at a Chamber luncheon and some business owners at your table were discussing a problem that your business’ product and/or service is great at resolving, wouldn’t you find a way to join the discussion in a way that doesn’t impose on the table?

Sure you would.

So…If there’s a conversation on Facebook, how is that different from these two situations?

You’re right. It isn’t different at all.

Finding them on Facebook

So..your next task is to create a Facebook account and search for people having conversations that you can offer value to.

You need to look at Facebook groups. There are groups for every conceivable topic. Some of them are sponsored by industry associations or leading vendors.

You might also look for Facebook “pages” (which normally represent a business) that you have something in common with. Interact when it makes sense.

Your goal is not to carpet bomb Facebook with “buy my stuff, visit my website”. Your goal is to join conversations, deliver value and thus establish your positioning as an expert.

In order to avoid spending all day on it AND to avoid blowing it off, treat it like any other work: Schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t take it seriously.

If it isn’t right for you: Two ways to say “I don’t use Facebook”

Almost every day, I hear business people saying “I don’t waste my time on Facebook.”

That’s one way to say “I don’t use Facebook.”

I suggest this instead: “I looked on Facebook to see if there was a community of people who need what I sell and found none, so I don’t use it for business. I still check in every few months to see if that has changed.”

That thought process shouldn’t be limited to Facebook.

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Domino’s Transparent Pizza

Recently, Domino’s started a campaign that threw open the world of food photography and showed why the food you get at the restaurant rarely (never?) seems to resemble the amazing looking food you see on TV.

At http://showusyourpizza.com, they asked for their customers’ pizza photos.

In short order, they’d received 13,000 photos.

At least one showed cheese stuck to the top of the delivery pizza box (We’ve all gotten one of those).

Rather than leave it buried in the other 13,000 photos, Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle shows the photo in a recent television ad, names the town (and thus by association, the Domino’s franchisee) and make it clear that kind of performance will not stand.

How’s that franchisee feel about his town being named on national TV? Hopefully it feels like a target on their back.

If I’m the Domino’s CEO, I don’t really care so much about how it makes the franchisee feel (and I suspect they were warned before the ad appeared). Meanwhile, I suspect a number of the Domino’s customers in that town are nodding their head as they see the commercial and thinking “Yep, that happened to me.”

Rather than pretend it didn’t happen (or spin it), he steps right out, shows the photo to the world and says (more or less) “This will not stand and we will do better.”

A great lesson for every small business owner, whether you sell pizza, knitting supplies or software: The world already knows what you screwed up. Your customers talk about it, blog about it, chat about it at the grocery store, at the water cooler and in the yard.

How you face – and fix – what you screwed up is often far more important. We have enough image control and spin in our lives. We don’t need it from the businesses we deal with.

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Who sells our stuff? Dont know, dont care.

Who sells your stuff?

Many wholesalers list the brick and mortar stores and online outlets where their products can be found, but a substantial number don’t, citing competitive issues and so on.

Unless your products are in some way objectionable (which could mean almost anything), I really can’t see a reason not to let people know where they can find your wholesale products locally.

Clearly, there’s at least one vendor here in Montana who disagrees, as I recently received this email:

We recently got our dog back to live with us. I am a subscriber to Dogster.com and just recently I have started to look at the site for many things. Weather transitioning for dogs, stress etc… The first thing I noticed about him is that one of his eyes is starting to get a little cloudy (he is 10 yrs. old). So with that set-up here is the link I rec’d just last week from Dogster.

http://blogs.dogster.com/living-with-dogs/milk-thistle-and-senior-dogs/2010/08/

I contacted the Buck Mountain Botanicals that Dogster recommended and just as luck would have it, they are in nearby Miles City, MT. I contacted them to find out what retailer/vet carried their product in my town. The response is below in bold.

“We are a wholesaler and don’t keep track of who buys what. You can buy this product through a veterinarian or pet store. It is also easy to find retailers by Googling Buck Mountain Milk Thistle.”

I was stunned by their response for the following reasons:

  • Not a “thank you for inquiring about our product”
  • They “don’t track of who buys what” – I was further stunned by this! How do they stay in business, if they have no idea who buys their product?

Keep in mind Dogster.com is nationally recognized website that I have been using/following for over 8 years.

BTW, I did Google the retailers and purchased the product that evening plus I purchased a pair of dog earrings as well. Yeah, I know I am a sucker! :0)

Still stunned and amazed,

<dog owner>

The problem with “we don’t keep track of who buys our stuff” is that it simply isn’t believable. I think the wholesaler simply didn’t want to take the time to look up a retailer in the customer’s town, or better – point out the Google map on their website that shows where their retailers are (except…they don’t have one).

Do you really think that a wholesaler doesn’t know who their best retailers are?

On the other hand, let’s assume they were telling the truth. How do they know which retailer is their best? If they aren’t tracking retail distribution, what else aren’t they tracking?

Which products sell the best?

Which parts of the country are un-served or underserved?

You’d think that in “today’s economy”, people would want to take a personal interest in making it as easy as possible to get their products into a customer’s hands.

Most of us can easily look elsewhere for the things you sell. Don’t ever forget that.

Remember…Business is Personal. The little things are often what make it stay that way.

PS: Note the comment about dog earrings. There truly is a niche for everything. Ok, they probably aren’t for the dog. Still, there were 354,000 results in Google for “dog earrings”.

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Pardon the asterisks, but social media’s kinda important

It’s Friday and I’m on my way back from Scout camp and on the way to the Montana Western Divisional Swim Meet. That means you get a guest post of sorts.

But I wouldn’t let you down with just any old guest post. This one has some serious stick-between-your-teeth to it. I suggest you click the “View on Slideshare” button on the lower right corner, as some of the text is really small – and it’s important enough to see.

Are you paying attention to this stuff yet? You should be.

Social media is how big, sometimes-faceless, global businesses can pretend to be just like your little carriage-trade business.

Are you going to let them get away with that?

Facebook and Twitter friends were treated to this last week – here on the blog, it had to go into the queue.

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Are you wearing Old Spice this morning?

Old spice
Creative Commons License photo credit: blvesboy

There was lots of noise this week when those clever folks managing the Old Spice social media campaign started making dozens of videos for a couple of days.

Old Spice’s team responded to Twitter posts, to Facebook posts, blogs and more, whether the posts came from celebrities or not.

The quickly made videos were funny and appeared to gag YouTube for a bit (might’ve been a coincidence). At any rate, it was a clever campaign to get some buzz about the product.

The other shoe

But did anyone buy Old Spice as a result?

Remember, that’s presumably the goal of running an advertising campaign, regardless of the media used.

What concerns me about actions like this – even though I tell you to have fun in your marketing – is that when a global company like Proctor and Gamble uses social media like this, I’m guessing that someone, somewhere wants to see ROI.

If they don’t, then we’ll have a global corporation (and their ad agency, potentially) pronouncing that “social media doesnt work” to anyone who will listen.

Bottom line: They want to see Old Spice fly off the shelves.

Will P&G be able to tie increased sales (over what period) to this campaign and ONLY this campaign?

I just don’t know, but I doubt it.

Unlike the Will-It-Blend campaign, which demonstrated the toughness of Blendtec’s blenders (essential for the market they serve), this campaign only shows that P&G’s marketing firm is smart, clever and fast on their feet – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However…It doesn’t prove they know how to sell deodorant, body wash etc.

Don’t fall into that trap, no matter how clever you are.

REQUIRE that your marketing campaigns return a trackable ROI, no matter what the media.

Update: This morning’s article in Fast Company (online, of course) discusses a little of the behind-the-scenes for these videos as well as addressing the question I discussed here today – translating all of this into sales:

One of the questions that keeps coming up is people saying, “Ok, this is great, but will it make me buy more Old Spice?” If you look at the comments that are publicly saying, “I’m going to go and try Old Spice after this, I’m going to wear more Old Spice,” the groundswell of people saying that they are going to consume more Old Spice, I don’t know whether that is true or not, if people are actually going to go to the pharmacy and buy Old Spice, but I bet a whole load of them are going to go into the aisle and take the top off an Old Spice and smell it.

Update: Mashable comes up with some hard numbers related to the videos…but no sales info.

I’m still following this. We’ll see if they have devised a means of bringing this home to the cash register.

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What’s Your Swagger Wagon?

Nothing could be better than a mom and dad rappin’, right?

Ok, maybe there are things better. Still, today’s guest post is this awesome, fun video from Toyota which has managed to get 3.8 million views as of mid-June 2010.

The point? To have a little fun with your marketing – while still getting your point across. Toyota stays on message for the Sienna product, rap or not.

PS: Yes, I meant to post this for Father’s Day.

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Taking yourself out of context

Google recently released a video demonstrating how speedy the new build of their Chrome browser runs.

You *still* get the idea that Chrome is fast, but you are far from bored to tears as they demonstrate that.

If they showed a spreadsheet or graph documenting the speed of Chrome as compared to Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera, you’d surely click on and move to something else.

Instead, they got creative and made something that’s both marketing and interesting/fun to watch.

Now it’s your turn.