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What do a Nebraska farmer and Paypal Australia have in common?

For one, both are using various forms of social media to expand their business, find new customers and communicate with existing ones.

In some cases, they might never have communicated directly with the customer who way down the commerce chain actually consumes their product. Now, they can and do – even while settled into a tractor seat in their Nebraska croplands.

Meanwhile, a programmer acquaintance in Australia recently talked about how social media connected him and a global corporation, making him feel like more than just a number and engaging him to develop software using their payment systems.

What would reaching out would do for your business?

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Business culture Community Competition Customer relationships customer retention Leadership Marketing Media President-proof Public Relations Restaurants Retail Small Business Social Media Strategy The Slight Edge Web 2.0

Good enough for the Pope. Good enough for your business?

hoje é quinta
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ana_Cotta

Yes, I’m talking about social media.

Think about it. The Pope has a new website dedicated solely to connecting people to the Catholic church via social media.

The key part of that sentence is not website or social media. It’s “connecting people to the Catholic church”.

It’s another media and they’re doing more than dipping a toe into it.

But why?

Despite having all these “stores” (ie: churches) that “sell” the Catholic faith, they felt that it was worth the investment to create a Facebook application, an iPhone application, a Catholic-specific Wiki and a YouTube channel.

Communication – maintaining a connection with your clientele – is what social media is all about.

Silence is what sends customers somewhere else. Not knowing what’s new in your business and why they should know about it is what makes customers fall asleep.

Do you really want your customers hearing about that great new thing from your competitor?

Meanwhile back at the ranch, there YOU are. What will you do next? Who will know about it?

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Blogging Business culture Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Entrepreneurs Internet marketing Management Marketing Media Public Relations Restaurants Retail SEO Small Business Social Media Strategy Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Social media mistakes small business owners should avoid

junior
Creative Commons License photo credit: notmpres

Today we’re going to talk about three mistakes that I advise small business owners not to make when getting into social media.

#1 – Don’t be a firehose

One of the easiest things to do – and most important to avoid – is the temptation to flood the place with automated messages.

For example, there are tools out there (like twitterfeed.com) that allow you to automatically post links to your blog to Twitter. You can do the same with Friendfeed and Facebook.

Using tools like this to send your blog posts to Twitter or Facebook is fine – unless that’s the only thing you post.

If you’re the Flathead Beacon, CNN or The New York Times, you can get away with that – even though we’d still like to see more interaction.

As a small business owner, your job is not to be a firehose.

Interaction is better. Note the first word in “social media”. It’s social.

It’s not you standing on a corner preaching to anyone who will listen – while you listen to no one and interact with no one.

#2 – Don’t treat me like it’s our honeymoon when it’s really our first date

One of the most common mistakes I see in Twitter is the “Hey, thanks for following, want to buy my product?” direct message (in Twitter lingo, a DM).

Look at it this way. If we meet at a Rotary meeting for the very first time, the first thing you say face to face after we are introduced and are seated across from each other is NOT going to be “Hey, great to meet you, want to buy my product?”

It’s the same thing. Don’t do it.

#3 – Don’t assume that everyone wants to listen to your politics or the F bomb all day

They don’t. Just because the environment is a bit casual on many of these sites, don’t assume for a minute that you are sitting in a bar in a strange town where no one will ever see you again.

Would you have those conversations across the counter with a customer? Would you have them out loud with a friend in your crowded business?

Didn’t think so. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are also not the place to have them either.

Always remember that you’re taking the time to use these tools in order to better connect with the people who are interested in what your business does, or what you know.

EXCEPT…when it supports the nature of your business. Yes, Ian’s Catholic goods store comes to mind as the easy example.

That may seem a bit cheesy, but the fact remains that if your politics have no business out loud at the counter of your store, then they don’t have any business representing you on Twitter and Facebook (etc).

Finally, watch your online mouth just like you would your real one. It’s still a business conversation.

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Blogging Marketing marketing to the affluent Media Positioning Public Relations Rotary Small Business Social Media Strategy

Social Media: Time Waster or Essential Small Business Tool?

Polio outbreak campaign
Creative Commons License photo credit: coda

If someone threw a party for a big group of people who are interested in the products and services you offer, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Yeah, you would and social media can help you do just that.

Given that you’re reading this, I can’t help but assume that you know what social media is. Still, you may still wonder how it could possibly be of productive use for your business as opposed to another way to waste your staff’s time.

Note that last word in the phrase “Social Media”. Really, that’s all it is. A media.

What’s critical to understand is that it is a very different kind of media than businesses are used to dealing with.

It’s interactive and independent. It’s not controlled by a major media company, which likely keeps them up at night.

If you want to learn more about your favorite music, where do you go? If you want to hang out and discuss music with 100,000 fans of The Who, The Beatles or Miley Cyrus, you don’t go through a music industry gatekeeper to do so.

Social media enables you and those 100,000 other people to find each other. Easily.

I Leica cameras

Let’s say that I’m a big fan of Leica cameras, as Ed Dale is. (Sorry Ed, I’m a Canon guy).

If I want to have a conversation with someone about them or learn more about them here at home (remember, I’m in a fairly rural community), I’ve got a problem.

So how do I find others who are into Leica camera gear?

You can call a local camera store. You can visit your local photography club. If your community has a central web-based events calendar, you could check that out or subscribe to updates. You can visit a local photography exhibition and ask someone there. And of course, you could Google <your town> photography club.

Even after doing all that, you may find that there is a small number of people in your area who are interested in Leicas. On a photography social media site like Digital Photography School, it’s a different story.

Now imagine that your business specializes in Leicas in some way. Maybe you sell them, repair them or create accessories for them.

Wouldn’t you want to take part in the discussions that all these Leica enthusiasts have? Worst case, you’d want to listen in on them and get your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community of Leica fans.

If you’ve taken my advice to heart here at Business is Personal, I’m thinking you’d want to be right in the middle of all those conversations.

Join the Conversation

Even if you don’t participate in the conversations (though you should), there’s a huge amount of value there. Because of this, social media is a great research tool.

It provides an efficient way to keep an eye on what people are saying about your products, business, industry and competitors.

It allows you to easily reach out to your customers and prospects and improve your relationship with them. The more responsive you can be to your customers, the more likely you are to keep them.

Social media allows you one more way (and one more place) to demonstrate your expertise to people who need it. People want to do business with the expert.

Robert Collier said to join the conversation already going on in your prospect’s head. That’s exactly what social media allows you to do.

Rotary rings

Social media also provides you with the ability to connect with people you might NEVER have met any other way – someone who can make a substantial difference in your life or business (or vice versa).

I follow the Cary (Kildaire) North Carolina Rotary Club on Twitter.

Why? They’re a large, successful club in a high-tech town. I’m (currently) our club President in a small, new club in a small rural town. I can learn a lot from a large successful club.

I have a Rotary search setup in Tweetdeck so that I can find people who talk about Rotary. If they’re interesting and helpful comments, I eventually follow them. That’s how I found the Cary Rotary Club on Twitter.

One of their comments earlier in the week said someone from Rotarian magazine (the monthly magazine that Rotary International publishes for their members) was looking for a source to talk about social media and Rotary.

A perfect fit

Gee, is that a good fit for me and my business? Rotary members are mostly business owners. I’m a Rotarian and currently club president. Marketing is my business. It’s a *perfect* fit.

The Cary post on Twitter included the email address of the reporter, so I emailed her and soon enough we had an appointment to speak.

The next day, we had a 45 minute phone interview for a story that will appear in Rotarian magazine.

We talked about the interaction of social media with Rotary and Rotary’s 4 Way Test, as well as social media’s use in business for marketing and other purposes. We also talked about common mistakes that people new to social media might make and should avoid.

I have no idea what will come from that, but it’s exactly the kind of publicity I can use, to the perfect audience for my business. For free.

In addition, it’s a pretty cool thing to be a Rotary member who is interviewed in The Rotarian, so that’s a nice bonus (and yes, I will likely have to spin the wheel when the magazine comes out).

Back to you

Enough about me, even if it was a good example.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to participating in social media.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about some of the pitfalls to avoid and some things to focus on.

As you might expect, it’s personal.

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China Customer relationships Customer service Improvement Management Marketing Media President-proof Restaurants Retail Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Oprah is an alien?


Monday’s have been a bit over the top lately, but yesterday was a doozy.

Really, there’s enough things going on to give your business some challenges without adding today’s “entertainment”.

On the other hand, what Monday wouldn’t be complete without:

The only thing missing from today’s headlines might be Oprah announcing she’s an alien and that she’s having the Shamwow dude’s child. Next Monday perhaps.

Seriously though, there’s that issue of the mortgage

Meanwhile, your mortgage is still due and it’s Tuesday so perhaps the time has come to get back to normal.

Given the complexity of yesterday, I thought I’d keep it simple.

If you’re struggling to make your nut this week, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Who are your customers? Really? Break them down into individual groups with different primary needs.

For each group ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you save them money?
  • How can you save them time?
  • How can you help them be more successful?
  • How can you treat your best customers even better?
  • When did you last speak with your 10 best customers? What else do they need that you aren’t supplying them with?
  • How can you reward your most loyal customers for sticking with you?
  • What can you do to get your newest customer to be your next great customer?
  • Are there any kind of events or workshops that you can offer to them to get them into your store?
  • What about the last 20 customers you lost? Have you spoken with them to find out why they left? Can you get any of them back?

About your products and services…

Can they be separated? Combined? Shrunk? Enlarged? Bundled? Delivered? Shipped? Installed?

Which of them need fine tuning, repair or overhaul?

Think. Then Act. Today.

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Competition Creativity Direct Marketing event marketing Internet marketing Marketing Media Restaurants Sales Small Business Word of mouth marketing

Obama’s Pizza War : Get your piece of the pie

Prosciutto, anchovy and onion pizza.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gio JL

The President is hosting a group for dinner at the White House this weekend and pizza is on the menu.

That alone should have you thinking about opportunities to use the news -  if you’re in the pizza or catering business.

But then, it got turned up a notch when Obama chose St. Louis pizza for the dinner rather than pizza from his adopted hometown of Chicago.

And that gave you yet another opportunity. If you’re in Chicago, NY or St. Louis, there are lots of opportunities to use this since those cities all claim to have the best pizza.

With the choice of St. Louis’ Pi pizza to cater the dinner, it just adds to the opportunity.

In fact, even if you have a pizza joint in Ft Benton Montana (population 1459, saaaaa-lute), there’s a ready-made opportunity that just got tossed your way like a thin crust pizza (noting that St Louis-based IMO’s wasn’t invited).

There is always opportunity for those paying attention.

How can you use this while the story is still hot?

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Is your marketing as clever as the Stimulus Prize Patrol’s?

Whether your politics allow you to appreciate the message in this video or not, you can’t help but admit that the parody is clever.

Odd thing is, I’ll bet you’ve never seen a local business use their own “prize patrol” in any way, shape or form – even if prize delivery wasn’t the goal of putting the patrol together.

The problem is that being clever isn’t enough.

Clever isn’t the objective (neither is cute). Results are the objective.

Note that I didn’t say positive or negative results – just results.

If someone unsubscribes from Business is Personal (or swears never to return<g>) because of this post, that’s a result.

Ultimately, it probably means that they couldn’t really take working with me anyhow. While my name is Mark, sometimes I can be a little Frank.

While the fact that they might leave is a shame for both of us, the right person is out there for that person who leaves BIP and never comes back. Likewise, if someone stays because of this (or any post) at BIP, that is also a result (and a better one, but still a result).

Not everyone has to be – or is ideally – your client. And that’s ok, really.

Clever, cute, useless

You see clever ads that win national advertising awards with regularity. But did they produce a positive return on investment? Did they attract a group of new raving fans for that business?

Guess what – results are not part of the criteria for most of the national marketing/advertising awards that the “big name” agencies win.

Do I enjoy these ads? Sure.

Do I think they are clever? Absolutely.

Do I wonder if the client can find a single identifiable return (or result) from the ad? Definitely.

It’s Payback Time

The job of marketing is not to entertain. The job is to sell, motivate and/or engage. And even to build the Tribes that Seth talks about, though the growth he talks about occurs organically because you do what you do so darned well (among other things).

Don’t get me wrong – The prize patrol could easily be used in a campaign that not only was entertaining, but also produces results. In the case of the stimulus video above, it wasn’t designed to product quantifiable results…or was it?

How many views on YouTube did it get? About 70,000 between Feb 22, 2009 and today (March 14, 2009 when this was written).

But…what did those views produce? Hard to say. If I’m the owner of the site that produced the video, I can look at my inbound links from YouTube and see how many of them turned into donors, subscribers and so on.

Those are quantifiable results.

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Creativity Marketing Media Public Relations Restaurants Retail Sales Small Business Strategy Word of mouth marketing

The Dow fell, let’s go out to eat!

Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled Bokeh Wednesday, but it's time to return to the Apocalypse
Creative Commons License photo credit: nosha

After dropping my son off at school at 5:30am (he is heading to Great Falls for the state basketball tournament), I turned on NPR on the ride home and heard a story about a Seattle restaurant whose daily special is priced based on the closing level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

For example, if the Dow closes at 7523, then the restaurant’s special that night is priced at $7.52.

If you listen to the story, you’ll find what you might expect: that people are buying the special (which is in limited quantities) because of the price.

What you might not have expected is that the same people who come in for the low price are also adding high-profit-margin items to their meal, like alcohol and desserts.

The owner sounds a little concerned about the price of the Dow, which is down 1000 points since he started the promotion, yet he continues the special. That tells me that the special is still profitable.

Not only did it not cost him large amounts of advertising money, but it turned a profit AND generated a ton of free publicity via National Public Radio.

So, how can you be creative and use the news today?

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Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Media Politics Small Business Social Media Technology Web 2.0 websites

Rhetoric, “privacy” and those Presidential campaign email lists

About a year ago, I ran some tests to see how clued in re: email use and mobile/internet marketing each Presidential campaign was.

Each campaign got an email address all to themselves, one that I use for no other purpose so that I could track what their campaign did. In fact, the candidate name was the part before the @ sign in the email address – hard to mistake for another campaign:)

One of the reasons I didn’t leave the lists after the election: I wanted to see what they did with the lists after the campaign – something you should be very aware of as you build an email list in your business.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

Ron Paul

The Ron Paul list ended up in the hands of a number of what I would categorize as “freedom fighter” lists as well as on Mr. Paul’s fundraising list. The email from this list was of such volume and high rhetoric that I finally had to unsubscribe out of annoyance: the interruption factor was just too high. Examples include the “Free Foundation” (Mr. Paul’s Foundation for Rational Economics and Education) and “Campaign for Liberty”.

I wasn’t asked to opt-in, they simply included me on their list because that email address specific to Ron Paul’s campaign was on Paul’s Presidential campaign list. They had it, they used it. I suspect someone there simply hasn’t taken the time to understand the written (and unwritten) rules/laws about email marketing, opt-in, etc.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s list ended up in the hands of HillaryPAC (which may be on hiatus now that she is U.S. Secretary of State) and while I was sent an email from Hillary’s list asking me to sign up for the “American Democracy Institute” (EmpowerChange.org) list, I wasn’t added to it without permission. The same type of attempt was made by MediaMatters. Since she was named SoS, no emails have been sent by anyone to this Hillary-specific address, which makes sense:)

John McCain

McCain’s list ended up going to the Republican National Committee (RNC). That one probably annoys me the most because it is most like the lists related to Mr. Paul’s original campaign email list. I now get emails about Norm Chapman and any other issue RNC Chairman Richard Steele thinks I simply must know about – and in a tone that is just about unreadable. Think “National Enquirer” with a little Rosanne Rosannadanna added in, along with an Obama-esque donation button at the bottom.

Barack Obama

Obama’s list appears to still be in the campaign’s hands (yes, he’s still campaigning, but that’s a post for someone else’s blog), as I’ve received nothing from other lists to that address.

Mitt Romney

Last but not least, the list from Mitt Romney: Amazingly, I havent received a single email from his list since he quit the campaign and it appears that his campaign didn’t give the list to anyone else.

Treat them like customers, not list members

With the exception of Mr. Paul’s list (primarily because of the volume), I’ve decided to remain on these lists to see what happens to these specific-to-the-campaign email addresses as time moves forward.

How you treat your customers’ email addresses will reflect back upon you. Stay on topic, stay on message and NEVER, EVER give your list to another vendor, business or associate.

What Hillary did (sending an email to her list, suggesting that you might check out another entity) is somewhat common – and still acceptable – business practice, but automatically signing up your customers to umpteen other lists as Mr. Paul’s campaign people did is not.

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China Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Homemade products Leadership Media Regulation Small Business Web 2.0

The CPSIA, Glenn Beck, the Chicken and the Egg

Am I the last so-called journalist in this country? (stupid question, I’m not even one of those<g>)

You may or may not know I write a business *opinion* column once a week in the Beacon – and that isn’t even my “real job”.

What am I talking about? Yes, the CPSIA again.

Rob over at CPSIA Central emailed today and said that Glenn Beck wasn’t covering the CPSIA because Glenn or someone on the show staff says “there’s no public outcry”.

Really? Is that the minimum daily requirement to get a journalist to write a story? I must’ve missed something.

Per Rob’s request, I wrote a letter to the Glenn Beck Show in hopes that they would realize that THEY (the press) are quite often the catalyst to creating that public outcry.

Here’s my letter to Mr. Beck:

Mr. Beck,

My understanding is that you feel there is no reason to cover the CPSIA story on the Glenn Beck Show because “there is no public outcry”.

I suppose that Watergate wasn’t worth covering for that reason, and nor was Iran-Contra or the Lewinsky story, et al. Part of what causes a public outcry is that journalists learn about stories that the public SHOULD learn about and/or SHOULD be upset about – and proceed to educate them via their media.

Isn’t that part of your job?

Honestly, it might be that you just aren’t listening in the right places. You’re a busy guy. You can’t possibly be everywhere and hear about every little story that affects tens of thousands of businesses across the US.

In addition, I suspect a lot of the lack of attention stems from the idea that this really only hurts “mommy businesses” – and the perception is that these “mommy businesses” really don’t do much but keep moms out of the mall and give them a little something to do when baby is taking a nap.

Because those perceptions are so dead wrong, I ask that you do three things:

First: Read https://www.rescuemarketing.com/blog/2009/01/13/strategic-cpsia-awareness/

Notice that this ISNT just about “mommy businesses”, but it reaches out to a substantial piece of the business community.

Second: Google CPSIA and see what you find: 985,000 search results. No outcry indeed.

Third: If you’re really interested in learning more about the CPSIA, read https://www.rescuemarketing.com/blog/category/cpsia/, http://www.thesmartmama.com/bg
http://www.fashion-incubator.com just to get started.

Thanks for listening,

Mark Riffey

Rescue Marketing

406-249-0307

By the way, if you feel like joining the fray, Mr Beck’s email address is me at glennbeck dot com.