Marketing News Roundup - July 29, 2011

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Well, this whole debt ceiling issue is pretty distracting. It's hard to do business with so much uncertainty in the air. My clients are telling me that sales are pretty slow - most folks are taking a "wait and see" attitude before making any kind of committment.

In other news, more and more people are exploring Google+, and while reports say that the number of new users is leveling off, word on the street is that what we're seeing now is a Beta version, and there are many, many features to come, including special features for businesses. If you're not clear on how Google+ works, here's a video from the nice folks at Hubspot explaining the basics.

Are you on Google+? How's it working for you? Join me here and let's connect.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Setting Your Goals

If you're reading this blog, it's probably because you want some pointers on using marketing to build your business. But sometimes it's good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Today, give some thought to why you're really in business and what you really want.

What was your original goal?
If you can't remember, now is a great time to write down your goals so you can refer back to them later. It's amazing how our goals slide over time and how easy it is to forget what it was we really set out to do in the first place.

Undergoing metamorphosis. Photo: Vincent Teeuwen via Flickr.
Did you want to help people?
Is helping people what you expected it to be? How much time do you spend helping and how much do you spend doing other things? If you are burnt out with compassion fatigue, think about investing in yourself for a change- by taking a class, upgrading your computer, or hiring some help.

Did you want to make a lot of money?
Is bringing home the bacon filling your spiritual bank account, too? Think about things you want to do besides making lots of money and set some additional goals.

Did you want to be in charge of your own time?
The promise of freedom attracts many people to freelancing and independent businesses. But if your work has taken over your life, it's time to take control back from your customers and clients.

Did you want to do what you love for a living?
Is turning your hobby into your living all you wanted? Are you still enjoying your work or do you feel overwhelmed? Think about ways you can make more time to be creative and spend less time on administrative and financial matters.

How does all of this connect to your other life goals?
Whether it's spending more time with your kids, enjoying your retirement, or going back to school, it's important to make sure your business goals and life goals don't get lost in the shuffle of your daily life.

How do you make sure you focus on what's important? Please share in the comments. One of my goals this year is to spend more time interacting with readers like you.

On Building Trust

One of the most important things your potential (and current) customers need to do is trust your business. After all, if they don't trust you, why would they buy from you? Why would they recommend you to others? Why would they follow you via social media?

Photo: Flickr user Sahaja Meditation.
Here's how to build that trust:

Mean what you say and say what you mean. Keep your promises.

Be available. Answer phone calls, emails, and posts on twitter, Facebook, and Google+ promptly. If your company is reviewed on other sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, keep track of reviews and reply appropriately.

Stand for quality. Provide a quality product and resolve complaints quickly and fairly.

Appreciate what you've got. When customers publicly thank you for the great work you do, acknowledge it.

In short, treat your customers the way you want to be treated. The best way to build trust is by simply being trustworthy.

Related posts:

Refocusing on Your Customer
Don't Rickroll Your Customers - Offer Better Service
A Tale of Two Customers - Why Customer Service is Marketing Too

Marketing News Roundup - July 22, 2011

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Most business executives now aware that social marketing is important, but have failed to create cogent social media strategies as part of overall marketing plans. (eMarketer)

Your takeaway? Do you have a social media strategy that supports the rest of your marketing plan? Social media can be time-intensive, so make sure that time is being used wisely.

Photo: Copyright John Rawlinson, Flickr

Fake Apple store in southwestern China best ripoff store ever, and just around the corner from, you guessed it, two more fake Apple stores. (NPR)

Your takeaway? Now's a great time to set up google alerts and other social media monitoring so you can see how your brand is faring online (and detect any fakes).

Time to take another look at coworking. Coworking offices are set up so that independent professionals have space to work and share ideas. The city of Santa Cruz is using it to help local talent find work. (Fastcompany)

Your takeaway? Why does the best talent for you to hire have to live somewhere in your geographic area and arrive in your office at the same time each day? Maybe it's time to think more creatively about getting the best people for your marketing team.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Creating Your Marketing Plan

You've got a Facebook page, a blog, a twitter account, and a web site. You send out emails, do press releases when you can find the time, and you made a New Years' resolution to update your direct mail program and get on top of your SEO.

But how are you connecting all of these things?
Remote controlphoto © 2005 Francis Bijl | more info (via: Wylio)

Does your SEO support your press releases and your new product launches? Is your twitter feed engaging customers about the same deals you're promoting on your email newsletter? How do you keep everything straight?

This is where a basic marketing plan can help you get organized about how you invest your marketing time and money. First, list all of your marketing channels. Channels are ways of engaging with your audience. Channels include things like direct mail, PR, advertising, web site, email, Facebook, etc.

I like to map out each week with related promotions for clients. That way, if we take the time to update the web site, videos, and in-store merchandising, our press releases, advertising, and social marketing all support those investments. Since we know what we'll be promoting in a strong, multi-channel way, it's also easier to forecast what will be selling best each week.

Too many channels? I can help.

Related Posts
Why Marketing is not Sales
Three Ways to Drive Sales Today

Age vs Stage - What's More Important?

You probably know that you have different types of customers, and that it makes sense to group them somehow. After all, segmenting your customers makes your marketing more efficient - you'll be able to customize your campaigns to work most efficiently for each group.

So what's more important, customer age or customer stage?
Steps to sculpturesphoto © 2010 Vivian Evans | more info (via: Wylio)

Well, customer age can be a useful measurement - after all, you're going to pitch your messaging differently if most of your customers are over 65 than if most of them are under 21. It's also great to know your customers' birthdays so you can send them special promotions.

But wouldn't it be more practical to know if, for example, your 35-year-old customer is...

...a new parent?
...a full-time college student?
...a newlywed?
...just started a new job?
...taking care of an elderly parent?
...CEO of a large company?
...recently retired?

Wouldn't it be much more useful to know this information, rather than the age of your customer?

This is why lifestage is so important. Understanding where your customers are right now will help you craft offerings that resonate far better than anything else you might try simply based on customer age.

So how you do you find out what lifestage people are in?

The best way is by far the simplest- just ask.

Are you in the stage of life where you need some marketing help? Let me know.

Related posts:
Email isn't Dead! Permission Based Marketing Works
Secret Trade Secrets on Defining Your Audience

Marketing News Roundup - July 15, 2011

What's new in marketing (and more) this week?

Everyone is watching to see how brand new social network Google+ is doing. Turns out that 75% of its users are male. Why? Early adopters of new technology tend to be males, and most Google+ users self-identify as software engineers or web developers, which are male-dominated careers. (Mashable)
salve-a-terra--twitter_4251_1280x800photo © 2009 Danilo Ramos | more info (via: Wylio)

Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to have given the Internet an accidental preview of its own social project, something called Tulalip. They're claiming it's an internal network, but nobody's swallowing that. (SocialBeat)

Internet movie giant Netflix has taken a real beating this week for raising its prices. Honestly, the new pricing seems more pain-in-the-rear than unaffordable, which gets me thinking that maybe Nextflix should have communicated this in a different way. How do you handle these kinds of changes? (PR Daily)

Customers turned to Twitter to share their Netflix woes, and Twitter turns five this week. 200 million users now post more than 100 million tweets daily. Founder Biz Stone had many reasons for creating Twitter, one of which was...boredom. What do you do when you're bored? (NPR)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Refocusing on Your Customer

Busy Beephoto © 2008 Buck | more info (via: Wylio)
Things are getting hectic these days, right? You're researching mobile apps, testing new channels, and preparing for the holiday selling season. With so much going on, it's easy to forget who's most important to your business - your customer.

Take some time out of your busy day today to think about your customer...

  • Who are your primary customer groups? Recent retirees, new parents, high school students?
  • Why do they come to you?
  • What problems do you solve for them?
  • What drives their loyalty?
  • What else can you offer them?
Have you been letting them slip away? Now's a great time to remind them you're here for them and why they decided to do business with you in the first place. Say hello, ask how they're doing, ask how you can help. Make today Customer Day.

Need help? Let me know - I can help!

Don't Rickroll Your Customers - Offer Better Service
A Tale of Two Credit Cards - Why Customer Service is Marketing, Too

Creating Your Brand Story

We've discussed different aspects of story marketing on this blog before, here and here.

Today, it's time to think about your brand story.

Your brand story is how you explain why you do what you do. It gives a bit of history, and invites people in to support what you're doing and who you are.

For example, there's a pretty popular brand of all-natural frozen lunches that says something like this:

When our children were born in 1982, we were very busy, but we still wanted to be able to eat healthy, quality food that was quick and easy to make. We couldn't find any at the store, so we created it ourselves. We liked it so much, we wanted to share it with you.
So, what does this story do?
Welcome to the trainphoto © 2007 Keith Tyler | more info (via: Wylio)

  • It explains how long the company has been in business.
  • It provides a way of identifying with the company - many people are busy, and many people are busy parents.
  • It explains the problem that this product solves - being too busy to make healthy meals - we can all identify with that!
  • It welcomes you in to the brand, and offers you a seat at the table to share.
When you're writing your own brand story, think about:

  • When did your brand come about and what was your situation?
  • What problem were you having that your brand solves?
  • How can your current customer identify with that?
  • What can you say that invites them to join in the story?
Not sure where to begin? I can help.

Related Posts:
What is story marketing and how does it work?
Writing your own customer stories

Marketing News Roundup - July 8, 2011

What's new in marketing (and elsewhere) this week?

App to watch: Bitcoin, just launched to Android users. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer virtual currency that's been around since 2009. No banks are involved and it's not mapped to any existing currency - users trade bitcoins with one another. This kind of digital wallet app makes me go hmmmm.... (Wired GadgetLab)
Textbookphoto © 2006 Amy | more info (via: Wylio)

In other app news, the Apple App Store reaches 15 billion downloads. Store now contains 425,000 different apps. Wow, that is a lot of apps (CNET)

Is it finally time to kiss costly college textbooks goodbye? Academic presses embracing much more affordable e-books. Definitely a boon for books with niche appeal and overall idea-sharing. So sorry, super-expensive university bookstore (um, not really). (Inside Higher Ed)

What's Google's new social platform, all about? Here's seven ways you can use Google+, if you can score an invitation.  (TheNextWeb)

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading! What's news to you this week?

Related Articles:
Last week's news (in case you missed it)
Do you need a mobile app? (In case you want one)

Four Ways to Keep Your Head Up in Tough Times

This recession has been hard on almost everyone. The US economic recovery is taking far longer than even the experts predicted.

So your sales targets were raised this year because people thought things were going to get better. Your numbers may be up, but they aren't where they need to be. Your employees are demoralized, and some of your best folks feel like failures and are close to giving up.

What can you do?
Life in the Slow Lanephoto © 2009 Nancy | more info (via: Wylio)

Here's a few ways to help everyone (yourself included) feel some hope for the future.

1) Celebrate the small victories. Was this week better than this week last year? Did you renegotiate a contract to lower costs? Did your team implement some new service offerings that are raising your customer satisfaction scores? Recognize every improvement publicly and thank all those who participated.

2) Create rewards and incentives. Big bonuses are a thing of the past at most companies. If you want to reward your employees but can't spend any cash, consider that free days off, flexible hours, and handwritten, personal thank-you notes all work wonders to boost morale.

3) Keep working on career pathing. It's true that most employers aren't providing promotions right now. But that doesn't mean you stop mentoring your team and stop helping them grow. Wherever possible, make sure your team is learning new skills, staying up to date on industry trends and technology, and that they are exposed to important vendors, customers, and your own company executives. Your employees won't give up on you if you haven't given up on them.

4) The two words you can say to your staff that mean the most are "Thank You." Be sincere and specific, and encourage your team to thank each other as well.

Marketing morale need a boost? I can help.

Marketing News Roundup - July 1, 2011

What's new in marketing (and elsewhere) this week?

Fireworksphoto © 2011 Nigel Howe | more info (via: Wylio)
If you paid too much for your house, don't feel bad. At least you're not News Corp, which bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million, and just sold it to ad network Specific Media for $35 million. Reports indicate that half of MySpace's staff will be cut. (All Things D)

Wondering what people are doing with their iPads? According to a new study by Business Insider, they're using them between 2 and 5 hours a day and downloading lots of apps. A whopping 39.7% of those surveyed indicate that their iPad is now their primary computer. Takeaway: If you haven't done so already, make sure you've tested all of your web properties on one of these devices. (The Atlantic)

How are Facebook, Twitter, and other social apps affecting your web traffic? Google has just made figuring this out easier with enhanced social performance modules on Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Thanks, folks! (Mashable)

Have a great holiday weekend, and thanks for reading!