Your 2012 Marketing Strategy

One of the keys to success at anything is to have a good plan. As they say “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.  Why not start 2012 by creating a marketing strategy plan to take your business to the next level?  Here are some steps to make the process as painless and effective as possible.

Know where you’ve been

Take some time to go over how your business faired in 2011.  Consider what marketing efforts you took and the results that you saw.  Look at your monthly revenue, profits, conversion rates, etc.  What successes or failures contributed to the changes in those numbers over the course of the year.  Ask yourself whether your failed efforts were the result of poorly chosen actions or poor execution. For example, if you started a Twitter marketing campaign, but didn’t generate any new business from it, is it because your product or service does not do well on Twitter?  A clue to whether this is true lies in how your competitor’s Twitter efforts have done.  If the competition is doing well with an approach and you are not, it may be in how you are going about things. Studying the methods of successful competitors or similar noncompeting industries can show you where you can improve on your past efforts.

Find what you can change

Once you understand the successes and failures from the past year, consider what is in your power to change and how to improve.  There is really little you can do about the current state of the world’s economies, so focus on what you can change.  If your market is drying up, then determine if there are other markets that might be less affected by the current state of things. Formulate plans on how you can avoid the mistakes of the past and maximize the successes. In what topics does it make sense to seek training or hire an expert.  Are there activities that you could outsource to make better use of your time?

Decide on where you want to be

Think about where you would like to take your business over the course of 2012.  Come up with specific measureable numbers. If you want to grow your sales by 15%, then figure out how many dollars, units, new customers are required to do that, then divide those figures by 12 to see what your average monthly growth figures will be. You should end up with a list of goals like: “Increase average monthly sales by 200 units.”

Define high level tasks

Take everything from the previous activities and create major tasks you need to undertake to accomplish your new goals.  Here you will be defining things like “Create and promote Facebook fan page to drive more traffic to website.” “Use Twitter to reach more potential customers”

Lay out more detailed steps

Next take the high level tasks and break them down into smaller steps.  Continuing from the task example, you might create steps like: “Study tutorial on creating Facebook fan pages” “Create fan page” “Run Facebook ad for promoting fan page” “Increase Twitter followers by 200 this month” “Send tweet about new blog post”

Give yourself specific deadlines and refer to your schedule daily.

Review your progress

Periodically review your progress to make sure you are on track.  Also, at the end of each month review how you did on your list of steps, tasks, and goals.  Measure your progress to see if you are achieving the results that you want.

Make course corrections

Your plan should be a living thing, growing and adapting as needed.  To make sure it is, look at where you were too ambitious (or not ambitious enough), got off track, or ended up with results that are not what you wanted.  Make corrections to the next month’s activities to make your plan more realistic, get yourself back on track, or to try a different approach where needed.

Customer Service the Wrong Way

You may have read something about the recent email exchange between Ocean Marketing, a customer, and Penny Arcade.  If not, you can get the story here:  http://penny-arcade.com/resources/just-wow1.html.  In a nutshell, a customer contacted Ocean Marketing several times trying to find out about why the shipment of his order was delayed.  The conversation became more heated and escalated to the point where Paul from Ocean Marketing handled the matter in about the worst way possible.  The exchange has been making the rounds on the internet and has resulted in Ocean Marketing being fired from representing the company whose product was involved.  Paul from Ocean Marketing has also been the target of massive backlash from the gaming and general internet communities.

I see some valuable lessons in this story for the rest of us, though I believe that few of my readers would take the kind of action that we observe in this tale.

Mistake #1 – Not keeping the customers informed of delays.  The worst thing you can do in this situation is to remain silent and leave the customer wondering.  In this case, the customer wasn’t informed of the delay until after it had occurred and he had complained.

Mistake #2 – Not responding in a polite and courteous manner.  The full response was “Dec 17″.  At the very least, the response should have apologized for the delay.

Mistake #3 – Not responding with sufficient information so that the customer doesn’t have to follow up with additional questions.  “Dec 17″ did not give the customer an idea as to when he might receive the order, and it turned out to be the date that the shipment was expected to leave China!

Mistake #4 – Belittling the customer.  I can not conceive of a situation where it is appropriate to tell a customer to “put on your big boy hat”.  The customer may not always be right, but they should always be treated with respect.

Mistake #5 – Telling the customer that you would benefit from them cancelling their order. Do that too many times and guess what, you have no orders.

Mistake #6 – Getting the customer’s name wrong.  It is better to be generic and not address them by name than to use the wrong one.  Our names are part of our identity and when someone gets it wrong we tend to see it as the act of someone who doesn’t respect us.

Mistake #7 – Responding to an irate customer’s remarks in kind.  It is human nature to get defensive and even lash out when we feel we are attacked, but taking a few moments to cool down before responding is advisable.  This exchange was through email, so it would be easy to step away and calm down before responding.

Mistake #8 – Believing that the old adage about there being no bad publicity is true.  It’s not.  With the speed and reach of modern communications, a reputation can be utterly destroyed in less than a day.

Mistake #9 – Thinking that you are such a connected big dog in your industry that your reputation is bullet-proof.  Unless you are actually the top dog, there is always at least one bigger.  You are not likely to truly impress anyone acting this way.

Mistake #10 – Continuing to attack your customer when you are now visible to many potential customers.  They are potential customers, who do you think they will be identifying with in this interchange?

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.  There are several follow ups to the incident where Paul from Ocean Marketing tries to apologize to the customer and to Gabe at Penny Arcade, but his apologies turn into a string of excuses.  It’s sad, really.

Okay, let’s take the mistakes above and turn them into a few guidelines to help us avoid situations anywhere close to this one.

1. Keep your customers informed.  Be proactive when you realize that delays or other situations have arisen that your customer should know about.

2. Be courteous.  Even if you send your customer a canned response, let them know that you value them and that you see them as a person, not just a sale.

3. Try to anticipate questions that your customer may have and answer them before they ask them.  This will show them you are on top of things and will cut down on the amount of subsequent correspondence.

4. Treat your customers with respect.  We all want to be respected.  It promotes good will and it costs you nothing.

5. Make sure the customer knows that you appreciate their business, no matter how small the order.

6. Respect the customer’s name.  It is part of their personal brand.  Use it correctly and they may return the favor.

7. Resist the urge to go on the offensive when a customer complains.  Think of each complaint as feedback on how you can make your business better.  The customer is doing you a favor by telling you what is wrong.  Without it, you could be losing customers and never know why.

8. Protect your reputation.  Act in a manner that will not tarnish it, and take action to quickly and fairly correct any problems that left unattended would cast your company in a bad light.

9. Impress your customers by providing quality goods and services that address their needs and desires.

10. Always interact with your customers like the entire world is watching, because they very well could be.

What other lessons do you see from Ocean Marketing’s faux pas?

The Key to Successful Online Marketing

What is the key to successful online marketing?  Marketing!  There is nothing magical about marketing online.  Too many businesses fail to realize that the internet is simply a collection of communications channels.  Sound marketing principles still apply.  True, the technology gives an organization greater reach that can be executed quicker and much less expensively than through many conventional means, but understanding the target market and delivering the right message are still essential.  With current technologies, larger amounts of data can be exploited to more narrowly focus the targeted market, but without the application of fundamental marketing concepts the efforts are wasted.

First let me clarify that this blog post will deal primarily with the promotions subset of marketing.  Marketing is a much broader topic that includes market analysis, brand building, strategic planning, pricing strategies, development of a marketing plan, etc.  All of these things are important and should be used in conjunction with promoting your products or services, but for this discussion we will stay with the promotions angle.

Your Objective

What is it you are hoping to accomplish? Are you trying to build a list of potential customers that you can use in an email campaign? Are you looking for tools to stay connected with existing clients and to market more of your products and services to them? Are you trying to find new customers who are ready to buy your offerings now?  Even if you ultimately want to do all of these things, it is important that you come up with one goal and put everything in place to achieve it before you move on to the next.

Target Market

Knowing your target market is essential to being able to address their specific needs and find precisely where to deliver your message for greatest impact.  I addressed this in this previous post: The Power of Defining Your Ideal Client.

The Right Message

Based on your objective and your target market, what is the right message?  Different demographics groups will require different approaches. If you are trying to get someone to buy now as opposed to signing up for an email newsletter, your copy will be very different.

Delivering Your Message To Your Target Market

Next you need to decide on how you are going to get your message in front of your audience.  This will vary based on the target market and the message you want to deliver.  If your audience is mostly comprised of smart phone users, you may want to use SMS text marketing, or mobile optimized websites.  If your business has a physical store front, you should determine if geo-local apps or local search engine listings would be useful approaches.  Determine if your message comes across better as a blog post, podcast, or video.  Make efficient use of content by extracting audio from your video to create a podcast, and/or by transcribing a podcast to create a blog post.

Testing and Revising

Some of the questions raised in the previous sections may not have easily identified answers.  Even if the answers seem obvious, it is worth testing other approaches to confirm that you are on the right track.  Use multiple methods of delivering your message and multiple messages and measure which ones work best in achieving your objectives.  Since market conditions change over time, continue to test and tweak your efforts as needed.

Promoting Your Business with Video Marketing

There are many different ways to promote your business online including social media, banner ads, PPC, article writing, SEO, and podcasting. Of course there are many others as well, but one method that has been on the rise for the last few years is video marketing. It’s not hard to see why. Video engages us with imagery and sound (usually) and captures our attention in ways that text, still photos, and audio can not do individually. Video can be used to deliver content, educate, entertain, or market to your audience. If your videos are constructed properly they can perform all of these functions.

Benefits of Video Marketing

Here are some of the ways that video marketing can help your business.

• Video gives your prospects and customers a more intimate connection with you. Your video image can give them the feeling of connecting with a real person.

• Video has a higher perceived value than text or audio, which shows you are trying to give more value to the customer.

• Google likes video and often places high ranking videos on the first page. Depending on your keywords, this can get you a place on the first page faster than other methods.

• If your video is truly amazing or entertaining it could go viral. These types of videos are shared widely through social media sites and can get massive visitor counts. It is a rare occurrence, but not impossible to achieve.

Ways of Producing Video

There are three main ways to produce video:

1. Presentation videos – These are videos that essentially have someone speaking while the video is showing them a series of slides or screen capture video. This works well when your objective is to educate your audience. A great free tool for this is CamStudio.

2. Animated videos – These allow you to create a dialog script and to move various characters and features around the screen. These can be very sophisticated (and expensive) requiring specialized software and expertise and can take a considerable amount of time and money to produce. There are also simpler solutions that you can use to get an animated video produced in just a few hours. My favorite low cost solution is Xtranormal.  You can see one of my Xtranormal movies here.

3. Filmed video – This consists of anything that you point your camera at and record. For business purposes this could show the operation of your product, a tour of your store, your employees performing your services, or you talking into the camera. As for equipment, there are a vast number of reasonably priced video cameras of decent quality. The video quality on some smart phones is good enough for video viewing on the typical laptop or smart phone screen. If your audience is likely to be viewing on a large HD television, you might need to spend more for a quality camera.

Popular Video Sites

YouTube is currently the most popular video sharing site, by far, but it certainly isn’t the only one out there. It gets about 450 million unique visitors per month and is second only to Google in the number of searches they perform. YouTube receives about 16 times the number of visitors as any of the other video sharing sites. Other video sites include:

DailyMotion
MetaCafe
Vimeo
Veoh

There are also sites that give you tools for publishing your videos to multiple video sites all at once. I like TubeMogul, which can push videos out to 25 different video sharing sites.

Other places to share your videos:

Facebook
LinkedIn
• Your website

Conclusion

There are a number of other considerations that I did not cover in this post, such as editing software or services, lighting, and sound quality, but I hope this post gave you something to think about.

The popularity of online video will continue to grow, especially with most new mobile devices now able to access them. If your competitors haven’t started making use of this medium yet, they soon will be. If you haven’t done so yet you should seriously consider it. Since it is a technology you could test very inexpensively, what have you got to lose?

The Power of Defining Your Ideal Client

Depending on the nature of your business, you probably have some idea of who your clients are, but have you taken the time to define your ideal client? There is a tremendous value in coming up with as specific a profile as possible.

Why bother with profiling your ideal client?

  • Understanding who they are will help you to provide the most value in satisfying their needs with your products and services, allowing you to hone in on specific benefits that they are looking for.

  • It allows you to narrow the focus of your marketing efforts which will reduce costs and increase conversion rates.

  • When you have a sense of the characteristics of your ideal client you will find it easier to identify complementary products and services to provide.

What if you plan to sell to everyone?

  • That is great, but marketing to everyone is a difficult and expensive venture. You are better off identifying a narrow target market and marketing to them.

  • Once you have a successful marketing campaign running with one target market, you can always target another.

How do you go about creating an ideal client profile?

  • Consider your current list of customers and identify those that are the easiest to work with, have a true sense of the worth of your business to them, provide the best opportunities for referrals, and provide the highest customer lifetime value.  You can put more emphasis on the factors that are most important to you.

  • Once you have identified these traits, make sure that you write them down and create a profile that goes beyond what is obviously relevant to your business.  Are there certain demographic groups that stand out in this list? What hobbies, ideologies, and activities do they participate in?

  • Next, think about where people that fit the profile can be found. What opportunities exist to socially engage them? Would they be members of specific groups on LinkedIn or Facebook? Are there local clubs, events, or publications that cater to that group? How can you get involved and in front of these people who could become a growing list of clients that meet your ideal profile?

I hope this gave you some ideas on how an ideal client profile can be beneficial to your business.

 

Facebook Makes Changes – Again

If you are one of the 750 million Facebook users, you probably noticed a few changes recently. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the changes, but are the changes really bad? Or is it just that Facebook represents the comfort of friends and family and is now bumping us out of our comfort zone? Are the changes useful and what the heck is Facebook’s problem anyway?

Rest assured that Facebook isn’t out to make your life miserable. It is in their best interest to provide the best user experience that they can. In the world of online social media, that means keeping up or getting ahead of the competition. Also, Facebook is in it to make money, just like any other business.

But, Why?

So, why all the changes? Though Facebook is the largest of the social networks, they still keep a close eye on the competition, and they should. They don’t want to become the next MySpace. MySpace was the most visited website in the US just 5 years ago. Now they rank number 91. With new offerings like Google Plus coming on the scene, Facebook has to stay on its toes. One of Facebook’s new features appears to be a direct response to Google Plus Circles. Facebook now allows you to group your friends into categories and to share content with specific groups while excluding others.

Some of the changes are meant to give users more control over their content and how it is portrayed. This often means that to give that control they have to introduce more complexity.

Another new feature reminds me of the stream of twitter messages that you see when using Tweet Deck. Facebook has what they are calling a Ticker running on the right side of the screen that shows you the realtime feed of your friends’ updates.

Facebook has tried to capture as many elements of the other social media sites as they can. They compete with Classmates.com and similar sites with features that make it easy to find old classmates. They compete with sites like Flickr, Craigslist, and others. I expect Facebook to use the power of their social enterprise to take on sites like Angieslist as well.

But why all the other cosmetic changes? I think it is likely that some of the menu changes are meant to keep users from getting bored, and to force them to spend more time on the site trying to figure out how to do everything they used to do. While people are exploring and learning the new features, they are exposed to more of Facebook’s ads.

Oh, and guess what? Facebook announced that they are making even more changes before the end of the year.

Facebook Marketing xtranormal Movie

I made an extranormal movie about Facebook Marketing that is now on YouTube:

http://smallbusinessmarketingtipsblog.com

Facebook Marketing

If you are like me, you already have a personal Facebook account where you are friends with family, friends, and school mates. But are you using Facebook to promote your business? I’m not suggesting hammering your friends with advertising, though it is a good idea to at least let them know about your business. You never know when they might run into someone who needs your products and services. Just don’t try to hard sell them.

Facebook Marketing through Facebook Ads

Facebook has set up a couple of ways for promoting your business. The first is their paid ads.  The nice thing about their ad program is that you can target a very specific client profile by using their extensive demographics information. You could, for example, target single men between the ages of 18 and 24 living in Cleveland, Ohio who are interested in snowboarding. Facebook will then tell you the approximate membership that fits those factors and what the current bid rates are for those characteristics. You are able to bid for cost per click or cost per 1000 impressions.

You can set up your own Facebook ads by going to http://www.facebook.com/ads or by clicking on “Facebook Advertising” at the bottom of a page in Facebook.

Facebook Marketing using Facebook Fan Pages

Another method for marketing your business on Facebook is to create a fan page. These fan pages are free and can be created with many features that are available on regular webpages, or they can be a simple page with basic information and a link to your website.  When you launch your fan page be sure to select “Share this page on my wall” and include a message telling your contacts about the page and your business. Ask them to click “Like” on your page. This helps spread the word because their friends will see that they liked a page and some of them may visit it and like it too, which means that their friends will see it and so on. If you have an interesting page, you could see quick growth in the number of visits. If you have a link to your website, some of these will follow the link to learn more.

Facebook’s Pages feature can be accessed by clicking “Create a page” at the bottom of the page when logged into Facebook, or you can go to http://www.facebook.com/pages and click on the “Create Page” button.

Facebook Marketing is just one of the forms of Social Media Marketing that we will be covering in this blog.