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Without customers, there ain’t no business, Joe.

pancakebunny06Since January 2005, I’ve been spent a lot of time explaining how Business is Personal.

When I started this journey way back then, I named the blog “Pancake Bunny“.

I called it that as a result of a customer service interaction where a company’s CEO told a customer that their message made no sense and then included the pancake bunny in their reply (click here to see the original pancake bunny).

It struck me that I had work to do.

Not solely because of the bunny remark, but because of a pervasive antagonistic attitude toward customers – especially by many in tech-related industries (remember, Ive been in the software biz since 1982).

Nine Hundred Eighty Five

Nine hundred and eighty four times I have posted here in order to teach this one important lesson. This one is number 985.

I’ve shared little anecdotes here and there, stories, admonitions, an occasional rant or two – whatever it takes to make you and your staff attract, sell, talk to, think about and work with your customers as if they are real people.

Like your grandma. Imagine that.

That lady you were snarky with on the phone this morning is probably someone’s grandma, or mom or something. Would you talk that way if she were in front of you? Hopefully you aren’t the snarky one in the first place and that was intended for someone else cuz you’d never do that.

Progress

I know that in many cases I am preaching to the choir, but I also know that many people have related personally to a story here and it has changed their business. They have finally seen how treating their clientele like a friend, a partner, a family member – changes their business.

Others have finally figured out that hiding from their customers, treating them poorly (if they treat them at all) and thinking “Damn, if those customers didn’t keep interrupting me I’d get some REAL work done” is not how business is done.

Instead, it’s how your “Dear Valued Customer” becomes someone else’s.

If you haven’t gotten that yet, today might be your lucky day.

Enter Mister Butts

Earlier today I got an email from a Twitter acquaintance named Rick Butts. He’s one of those internet marketer types (and he just winced when he read that – sorry Rick).

EXCEPT, he isn’t like many of them. He’s a regular guy who gets the Business is Personal thing.

If after reading Rick’s email, you don’t understand why you simply have to treat someone who is viewing your blog, your newsletter, walking into your store, calling you on the phone, or tweeting you *like your grandmother*, then I suggest going back to post #1 and read a few posts a day.

I can’t help but think it’ll help.

Here’s Rick’s email. Enjoy.

I Am Joeâ??s Email List – An Open Letter To Internet Marketers

Hi,

I am Joeâ??s email list.

Joe calls me his list, his peeps, and sometimes just â??the list.â?

But, I am not a list, really, I am not a crowd, or an audience. I am not â??everyone out thereâ? as they teach new broadcasters to say.

I am me.

One single person with hopes, dreams, stresses and fears.

In many ways I am just like you – the way you describe yourself in your hungry years before you went to that life changing event, read the book, and started making money online.

I get email from you Joe.

I canâ??t remember for sure, but I think I â??joinedâ? one day when you offered a free report or video and I had to put my email address in – and confirm – in order to see it.

In my inbox, Joe, your email looks just like the personal emails I get from my daughter or son, and sometimes, sadly, from my ex.

Now that youâ??ve been sending me email – as well as some of your â??good friendsâ? – I have begun to be able to see in a glance that they are just offers, sometimes disguised as important messages, sometimes blatantly, not.

Whenever I see the word â??thisâ? in your subject lines, like – â??this wonâ??t last longâ? – or â??have you seen this?â? I know itâ??s an offer.

Since the Product Launch Formula I and especially II – Iâ??m amazed at how many times per month I am literally inundated with emails from so many people all about the same exciting product.

They arrive over multiple days, culminating in a bonus orgy that is just overwhelming.

I read a clever post in a forum once, that â??the bonuses are so comprehensive, it makes me wonder what is covered in the course, that is not already covered in the bonuses!â?

That made me laugh.

Iâ??m writing you today, to share something important about myself – and I hope youâ??ll take the time to consider my feelings, ok?

I have to get off of some of these lists.

The volume of email and the distraction of chasing the offers is just crippling my time, my focus, and my ability to get things done.

When Rick Butts asked his readers to consider unsubscribing from the people who sent you Stompernet Launch offers IF they had not provided any useful content in the last month – he really got me thinking.

Then Ed Dale made a video saying, basically, that no one is holding a gun to your head and that if you wanted to stop getting offers – stop bitching – and just unsubscribe.

But hereâ??s the deal. Iâ??d LIKE to learn from you Joe – and to be able to know that being on â??your listâ? is valuable to me, my business, and my future.

So, please donâ??t think me a big whiner, Iâ??m a customer, and hereâ??s what I respectfully request:

1. Slow down the frequency of mailing to me, Joe.

Do not email me every day – thatâ??s just way too much now.

2. Donâ??t mail me offers all the time.

Iâ??m reading a lot more RSS feeds from bloggers who are putting out great content. If you are using Feedburner or Feedblitz or Aweberâ??s blog notification service that mails me when you update your blog – then, cool. Iâ??m good with that.

3. If you do mail me an offer PLEASE donâ??t cut and paste the pre-written one from the creator of the product.

Do you know how stupid that makes you look to me? And, how insulting it is to get them from multiple people?

4. Try giving me some TRUTHINESS in your communiques to me.

If you are really making money in the non-marketing-to-Internet-marketers, then tell me some useful tips that are working for you. No, you donâ??t need to tell me your market niche but hey, every once in a while how about your show me how valuable I am to you buy sharing one of those SECRETS?

5. Show me some stuff that made less than $1,000,000.00.

Iâ??d be immensely interested in real world examples of success I can get my head around. Iâ??m never going to build a big list of â??biz-opâ? peeps and hammer them with a big JV launch. Show me how I can make $500 a week – then be able to replace my income and quit my skank job.

6. Stop bragging about your zero-gravity dives and how you are spending my money in outrageous ways.

Trust me, this is a lot more fun for you, then it is for me to read about it. You may excuse it as â??inspirationalâ? but I dontâ?? even think that works in MLM anymore. It just annoys me. A little â??high lifeâ? goes a long way and Iâ??m more impressed by how Internet marketing lets you enjoy your family.

7. Please, please, please, for the love of God, stop participating in these dreadful launches!

Let me believe you are successful enough without having to bend over and schlup me and the rest of my list mates through your embarrassing attempt to get me to â??buy from youâ? and help you win a contest.

The reason Rick Butts wrote about the 12 Biggest Whores, without naming anyone, is that we have all watched the emergence of about that many well known marketers who cross-promote each others stuff so regularly it is hard to imagine that they do anything else.

I think that gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of things that would make getting email from you valuable again – and persuade me not to unsubscribe from you forever.

Final thoughtâ?¦

The blowback from the â??unsubscribeâ? and â??launch fatigueâ? has been to accuse me and my list mates, the little people, of being whiners.

And while there is no shortage of whiners in the world, I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart – I am pleading with you to not dismiss me so easily.

What most of us really want is for you to provide us with value, treat us like a long term relationship, and we will, certainly reward you for helping us get to the next level.

Now back to check my email, I think thereâ??s a Traffic Secrets 2.0 launch today?

Sincerely,

Joe’s List

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Advertising Automation Customer relationships customer retention Direct Marketing ECommerce Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing planning Sales Small Business Technology The Slight Edge

Dude, I caught your wife cheating last night at…

Are You There?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Renneville

Imagine you’re talking with a prospect or client on the phone and right before the critical word or phrase that almost always closes the deal, you suddenly hang up.

You’d never do that, right? Would make it kinda hard to close the sale, don’t you think?

Thing is, your email, social media and website might be hanging up on prospects, albeit in a slightly different way.

Let’s talk about paying attention to some details you might not be watching. They’re details that might completely change the message you’re trying to get across to a client or prospect.

I’m talking about the repercussions of being just a tad too wordy.

Isn’t that funny? Yeah, I know I have zero room to talk on that. It’s an effort I have to stay focused on, so today I’ll show you why it’s important.

Twitter Cutoff

In Twitter,  your message can be 140 characters long.

BUT…if the message is more than 120 characters long and someone retweets it (sends it to their followers, which is very desirable for you), the characters past 120 are cut off as shown below.

See the … after “Jonathan Bu”? You’ve been snipped. Cut off.

Twitter text clipped off

If there’s part of a URL or some other important info at the end of your message, bummer.

If there’s anything there that’s critical to your message, you’re not a happy camper.

Outlook Cutoff

Outlook’s notification window shows approximately 30 characters of the title of your email. The number varies slightly because a proportional font is used in that window, meaning that some letters and numbers are wider than others.

I had my friend, mountain photographer and graphic artist Leroy Schulz send me 2 emails with totally different subjects. As you can see below, they look the same in the notification box.

Outlook subject cutoff

Identical notifications, yet their messages are totally different: One says “Mark, Are you voting for Obama? You’d be crazy not to”, while the other says “Mark, Are you voting for Obama? I wouldn’t dream of it”.

How’d you like to make that mistake?

Sure, some people do it on purpose to provoke you to open the email, but are those the folks who gain your trust? I doubt it.

Likewise, at the default width, Outlook’s inbox shows you only a part of the email’s subject (see below).

Outlook cutoff

As you can see above, having the subject cut off might cause a big problem, especially if someone doesn’t bother to read the email (like that ever happened).

The actual subject of the email above is “Dude, I caught your wife cheating last night at our weekly poker game.”

In fact, the cut off subject might just keep your email from getting read – and that’s what this is really about.

If your prospects and clients use some other email program, it’s bound to have similar limitations.

Google Cutoff

In Google results, page titles longer than 70 characters get cut off with a “…”.

This is the place where I get bit, because my blog post titles are occasionally too long.

Here’s an example:
Google Search result

In the example above, the title tag is too long (thus the … after “smart business moves”).

If the word after “moves” is important to finding your site, your prospect will never see it. For example, it might say “moves wisely to accept competitors’ cards” (which is what they did).

Sure, if the word is important, it should occur before that point if at all possible, but sometimes it isn’t.

Eliminating the … is the goal because you want the words in your title to be optimized for a) Google and b) those humans you want to see the title and be motivated to click on the link.

In each of these 3 cases, you typically want the truncated info to help answer the question that’s on their mind at that moment or provoke them to take an action.

Needless to say, “…” doesn’t even begin to do that.

Where are you getting cut off?

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Advertising Blogging Competition Creativity Direct Marketing ECommerce Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Public Relations Restaurants Retail Sales Small Business Social Media Strategy Web 2.0

15 percent of sales from a zero cost Twitter promo? Tweet-za, Tweet-za!

A New Orleans-based pizza chain using Twitter-only specials to attract new customers in real-time?

You might guess that it’d never work.

Twitter’s just a toy that people use to share what they had for lunch.

More accurately, Twitter offers a way for a pizza restaurant to give people a reason to visit their place to eat lunch.

Result: 15% of sales resulted from the Twitter-only campaign.

FIFTEEN percent of daily sales from a zero-cost promotion.

How creative can you be?

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Blogging Creativity Direct Marketing Ideas Internet marketing Marketing Montana SEO Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Are you overlooking sales opportunities?

dennyrehberg

As I’ve mentioned here before, I write a business column for the Flathead Beacon, an online newspaper here in Northwest Montana.

When I have the time and inclination, I also cover sports and other stories about my community (Columbia Falls, Montana) that interest me.

So I take a photo of Rehberg and Montana Chamber of Commerce President / CEO Webb Brown (on the left in the photo above) at a Kalispell “listening session” a month or so ago and insert it into my brief article covering Rehberg’s session.

The next day, a communications specialist at the Montana Chamber of Commerce finds my Beacon article about Rehberg’s session and asks if they can use the photo (which includes their president/CEO)  in their monthly magazine / newsletter.

I was a bit surprised they wanted to use the photo since the microphone is obscuring some of Mr. Brown’s face, but it is what it is. I think they were simply glad to have his photo with Rep. Rehberg.

Good news, bad news

I say sure, they can use the photo in their publication if they include a photo credit that points to the blog and they agree. Good news for me, as state chamber members will be a very nicely targeted audience for Business is Personal.

So my mail arrives and what do you know, the photo not only appears in this month’s Montana Chamber of Commerce magazine called “Eye on Business”, but it appears *on the cover*.

Unfortunately, there is a typo in my photo credit’s URL.

It happens. In fact, it happens more often than you would expect, so you have to be prepared to react properly.

Some might flip out at this point, but think about it – I can’t change the magazine.

React strategically

The magazine is already printed and in the mail. Reacting strategically is the only viable solution.

Thankfully, I am fortunate enough that the typo’d website address is available, so I grab it and create a simple one-page website that acts as a landing page for Eye on Business readers who see the photo credit and are curious enough to read more.

But wait, there’s more. No one other than those readers know that site’s address. It’s only in the magazine and I have no good reason to use it elsewhere.

This means that a very high percentage of the people who see this page will do so because they are readers of Eye on Business. In fact, that means I have good reason NOT to use it elsewhere because of this situation.

Result: I can customize the message on the new site to Montana Chamber of Commerce members, making their first experience with me even more personal. That’s exactly what I did.

Yet another opportunity

I must admit that I thought it was a little odd that the contact with the Chamber was not also used as an opportunity to ask me what I know about the Chamber’s work, if I was a member, and if I would like to get an application form etc.

Nor was a brochure or application included in the package I received in the mail with the sample issues.  This was a missed opportunity to ask, much less just tell their story.

Are you missing out on opportunities like that? Keep your eyes open for them. Sales opportunities that are in context tend to be a lot more fruitful than those that are not.

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Competition customer retention Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing podcast Positioning Small Business Social Media Strategy Technology The Slight Edge

What makes the phone ring in any economy?

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/HowDoYouMakeThePhoneRing.mp3]
Princess on the Phone
Creative Commons License photo credit: Yogi

There are no secrets around here.

I am busy as crap. Some weeks, so busy that I’ve had to let the blog slide a bit (Horrors!)

I’ve made it quite clear that I expect “well-behaved” readers to be contacting their clients, customers and prospects at least once a month – and not simply to say “Whaddaya wanna buy?”

I’ve also shown that I do this in a number of different ways, using a number of different media.

Why different media?

Different strokes for different folks

Because some people like email, some like using Google Reader, some prefer audio podcasts, some prefer video (still working on that one), and still others prefer direct mail. And so on.

Likewise, some of media is about access and exposure.

Not everyone has (or wants) access to radio or RSS or email or whatever. Are you willing to give up an awesome new client because they aren’t into Twitter or RSS feeds or email?

I’m not.

Just the other day, someone emailed me to ask me about doing some work for them on a big project they’re working on.

They don’t read my blog. They don’t get my print newsletter. They don’t listen to my radio show (or podcast) on iTunes. They didn’t find me on Utterli.

They found me through my newspaper column.

Their comment was this: “Though we are strangers, I feel Iâ??ve gotten to know you fairly well through your weekly articles”.

I’ve never met them, never talked to them, yet they feel they know me.

How much of advantage do you think I have over competitors that they don’t know?

Ideally, my competition just sits around getting splinters from the bench. They never get a chance to take a swing at this work if I have anything to say about it.

The Temptation

The temptation with communication like this is to depend solely on email because its cheap.

That’s a big mistake.

Why? Because cheap only reflects your cost. It doesn’t reflect the results. Cheap ignores the return on investment (ROI).

If you want cheap and you don’t care about results, you can get yourself 50 million email addresses for $30, but you probably won’t make a sale to more than 50 of them (depending on what you sell). Worse yet, by emailing them – you’ll end up on every email blacklist there is.

If the result is your focus, then you should be thinking “I only want to use the media that have a great ROI”. In that case, I might suggest some slight adjustments (ie: don’t use just 1 media regardless of the ROI), but otherwise you’d get no argument.

The lesson

A long-time client of mine recently switched from printed newsletters to email (still using my service, just a change in media). I suggested *adding* email, not using it as a replacement.

One of the first response emails he received from a client and good friend was “I don’t have time to read another email every week”.

That same person has demonstrated (through their actions/responses) that they do have the time to read a 4 page printed newsletter once a month, yet an almost immediate reply email said they just don’t want more email.

I made note of that irony to the client, pointing out that his client’s reaction to yet another email is a great illustration of why printed newsletters just plain work.

His reply: “No kidding.”

What makes your phone ring?

Where do your customers/clients/prospects get their information? What do they use to consume the news? That’s how you should be providing info to them.

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Apple Internet marketing Management Marketing Small Business Technology

Apple TV, Asian Women and Your Business

Not what you’d expect, trust me.

Just a reminder that you should register the domain names for your tradenames / trademarks to protect yourself and your business from squatters.

For example, let’s assume you own a restaurant and you have a very popular menu item called “Tom’s Awesomely Canadian Cheesy Fries”.

If your restaurant is called House of Poutine and you own HouseOfPoutine.com, I urge you to buy TomsAwesomelyCanadianCheesyFries.com as well.

Do it even if you don’t plan to make a special site for your awesomely Canadian cheese fries. Worst case, buy the domain and have your website person do a permanent redirect (they call it a “301”) to your main site.

Why?

AppleTV.com (PG) illustrates the problem quite well.

All Apple had to do was spend 8 bucks a year (and do it first<g>) to avoid this.

I suggest you do the same.

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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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Automation Blogging customer retention Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Small Business systems Technology

Make your automation personal, not just automatic

Automatic Caution Door
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zesmerelda

After requesting a beta invitation to a web-based service, I received the activation email.

*ONE* minute later, I got an email from the CEO asking how I liked the service. 

Careful there, Sparky. 

While I’d be the first to encourage such emails, you have to think about how – and particularly, when – you send them. 

It doesn’t make sense to send them 1 minute after sending an activation email unless you want to send the wrong signals.

IE: “I’m sending everyone the same email even though my email is worded otherwise” and “I don’t really want your feedback since you couldn’t possibly have any yet”. 

Neither one is really what the sender wants. 

It doesn’t make sense to send the emails until some period of time after the activation email has been clicked on, since they couldn’t have any feedback for you until they’ve activated the service and had at least a little bit of time to use it and see what it’s really like. 

You see the same thing in blogs where you can generate emails automatically the first time someone comments. Sounds great in theory, but if the email comes 20 seconds after you post the comment, it isn’t personal.

Instead of doing that – what if the automated email was sent to the blog owner, giving them time to check the commenter’s website, find out a little about them, much less actually read their comment – then a personal touch can be applied to the partly pre-written email thanking someone for their comment. 

That’s the kind of personal follow up that is appreciated – and it’s still mostly automatic.

There are some hacks to existing tools that auto-email first time commenters. If you use those tools, I suggest using the hacks. Keep it personal.

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Direct Mail Direct Marketing Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Media podcast Sales Small Business Social Media Web 2.0

Ignore those 2 posts. Direct mail is dead. RIP.

With all that direct mail talk over the last couple of posts, I can just hear the eyes rolling.

After all, direct mail is dead, right?

Perhaps in your market it is. Or, no one needs to use it because other things work better in your market, or because everyone in your market uses it poorly.

Regardless of the reason, if you’re convinced that direct mail is irrelevant – or at least no longer useful – in your market, those last couple of posts were a big waste of your time, right?

Psst…Think about them again, but replace “direct mail” with “email”. Or “face to face sales”, “telephone”, “television”.

Likewise for radio, newspaper ads and any other media you use to communicate with your clients and prospects – including Twitter, blogs, video and other social media tools.

After all, if this message wasn’t carefully crafted to be of use to you…you wouldn’t likely be here.

Each of these tools are simply another way to have or start a conversation with a person.

Never, ever forget that.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/DirectMailIsDead.mp3]