Blog is moving…please update your RSS feeds

25 Aug

After three years and eight months blogging at WordPress.com, Caffeinated Views is moving! I am now going to host the blog right on my website at http://www.deborahbrody.com. The change-over is happening this weekend.

I am very excited to finally be able to integrate this blog into my website, although it does mean some growing pains, since those of you who subscribe will have to change your feeds. The blog will also lose its title and look a bit different. However, I will keep providing the same type of insights into marketing communications, and much appreciate your readership.

The new feed will be found here as of next week.  Please update your readers.

http://deborahbrody.com/blog/feed/rss/

I would love your feedback on the new website/blog.

And many thanks for sticking with me!

Finding a vendor

24 Aug

How do you find a vendor? It is important to know this because it can inform marketing. Depending on what I am looking for, I used Google, LinkedIn, listing services, reviews or Twitter. I am sure you use other tools (and would appreciate your insights in the comments).

For example, yesterday I was searching for a freelance editor.  I used Google, and found (remarkably) few individuals had websites, whether I searched for “DC freelance editor” or “Maryland freelance editor.” I did find a couple, and one of them, had a very nice website and clearly defined rates. I searched for her on LinkedIn, and discovered that her background was very technical–no editorial. Made me think twice about her skill set. Another one had very strong writing credentials, but absolutely no social media (and she explained she is not into it). It made me question whether she gets it. I also Tweeted it out, and got a response from a colleague (good word of mouth).  But, no freelance editors even picked up on it. Obviously, not using Twitter search to find business.

Tool: Google

Marketing lesson: Websites are important. Google profiles are helpful. If you are in an industry that is reviewed, having positive reviews is important since Google finds results from Yelp and others.

Tool: LinkedIn

Marketing lesson: If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you are at a disadvantage. The quality of your profile (both for individuals and companies) is important. For individuals, testimonials, number of connections and your background do matter. Don’t make stuff up, but bone up what is there.

Tool: Twitter (or other social media sites)

Marketing lesson: How you present yourself, and even if you are on social media, says a lot. What does your Twitter profile, stream, followers say about your business or you?

Tool:  Printed materials (brochures, business cards, etc.)

Marketing lesson: How your marketing materials look (are they printed on quality stock, are they black/white or color, do they look professionally designed),  can give an immediate impression. How your marketing materials read–what information you provide–can seal the deal.

Tool:  Using the telephone

Marketing lesson: Are you reachable? How do you/your company answer the phone? Do you even answer the phone? Some people will want to talk to someone in real time.

 

Tool: Word of mouth

Marketing lesson: Each and every customer who has a positive interaction with you can be an ambassador, and each and every customer who has a negative impression can be a detractor. Watch your customer interactions. Improve your customer service.

The bottom line is that if you are marketing yourself/your company, you have to understand how people find you, and how they decide whether to contact you or not.

Your thoughts? What makes you decide on a vendor? How do you find a vendor?

Do you have an internal communications program?

23 Aug

Many companies devote almost all of their communications/marketing resources to EXTERNAL communications, that is, the customer facing communications like ads, press releases, and so forth.  It seems like far fewer companies take the time to invest in INTERNAL communications.

Internal communications are the information exchanges you have with your internal audiences: your staff, board of directors, volunteers and any other group internally affiliated with your organization.  Many companies communicate company news to employees via internal email or a staff meeting. There is nothing wrong with that, but perhaps you could do more.

An internal communications program should be:

Timely. Your staff should never find out about a company decision from outside sources.

Complete. Provide all the necessary details–more than you would provide the media.

Regular. Even if you have no major announcements, you should communicate with your internal audiences on a regular basis.

What kind of information should you share? Here are some ideas:

  • Staff changes and promotions–including dismissals
  • Company earnings and market reports
  • Competitive information
  • Any external communications: press releases, ads, blog posts
  • News reports on your organization
  • News reports on your field
  • Calendar events
  • Policies–including any changes

When your internal audiences know less about your organization that the general public you risk a downgrade in morale. Having a good internal communications program will keep your internal audiences informed.

If you do have an internal communications program, what is your preferred form of communication? If not, why not?

 

 

Customer service IS marketing

18 Aug

There should be no doubt that a company’s customer service plays a huge role in marketing. Put bluntly, if a company has poor customer service, there will be fewer customers at the end of the day. The only exception to this rule is with monopolies like power and telephone companies, which often provide bad service but customers are forced to remain with them as they cannot take their business elsewhere.

Let me give you a personal example. My website is currently hosted at Mediatemple. I have had hosting there since 2004. Off and on during the past seven years, I have had email retrieval issues among other problems.  This past Friday, I noticed my Outlook was not able to access my email. It happened again on Monday, at which point I opened a support request with Mediatemple online. I have learned, through negative interactions in the past, that calling the 1-800 number results in long waits and unhelpful personnel.

After a few hours, I had received no response, so I tweeted it out. Mediatemple responds immediately to tweets. I did not get a response from the support request until 24 hours later. It told me I should check my email settings. I did what they suggested, and the problem persisted. Mind you, I had no problem accessing my other email on the same Outlook, using the same ISP.  In my mind, the problem was clearly on Mediatemple’s side.  At Mediatemple, they refused to believe my claims as a customer, or accept that there could be an issue on their end. The couple of emails/tweets that followed told me to call customer service to troubleshoot my settings. Again, my settings had never been changed and the Outlook was working just fine with my other account.

Clearly, to Mediatemple, it is easier to shift the blame to the customer than to check their service. This has happened many times before (once, I was actually told when my website was down, that I had “broken” it…I wouldn’t know how to do that). Well, enough is enough. Since I am going to relaunch my website in the next few days, I am taking my hosting elsewhere. Customer service is the reason.

Customer service can play a tremendous role in keeping customers happy and COMING back for more. Nordstrom’s is well known for excellent customer service, and in fact, it is its key differentiating factor. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek claims that:

For the most part, the Nordstroms have succeeded by making customer service the good they’re really selling, say industry observers. Though many retailers embrace “customer centricity,” a fancy term for putting the customer first, few equal Nordstrom, which routinely ranks in the top three on Luxury Institute surveys that measure customer satisfaction.

Read that again: customer service is the good that Nordstrom’s is selling. Not the clothes or the jewelry. The SERVICE. And it has made the company GROW.

If companies spends lots of money on marketing materials, advertising and public relations but neglect their customer service, the marketing efforts will be for naught.

 

How to be a better Twitter user

17 Aug

Twitter is not for everybody because it takes some time and skill to use it to its full effect.  Since there are so many conversations and so much information being shared, its easy to get lost and not see any usefulness.

First, define what you want from Twitter. Do you want to follow like minded people? Are you a news junkie and want the latest breaking news? Do you want to get your name out there?

Once you have defined what you want, you can then choose to be a “lurker” or a participant. Lurkers just listen and gather information without adding anything to the conversation. They generally don’t start conversations nor share ideas.  Participants are more active–choosing to share links, engage in conversations, re-tweet content.

Obviously, you will get more in the way of real connection by participating actively.

Second, understand how Twitter works.  Twitter is real time conversation. People are talking to each other right now. And they are talking to many people. Sometimes, newbies just respond to a question someone has posted hours ago, without any reference to the original question. That is confusing.

Third, get a Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. It is far easier to see what is going on using a Twitter client than it is to use the Twitter web interface. You can see your @ responses (responses that mention you) and you can create specialized feeds for different subjects or groups of people.

Fourth, monitor Twitter for @ responses or for Tweets mentioning your name or product. There is nothing worse than lack of response or super delayed response. I posted something five months ago and someone is just getting back to me. That is not timely…and it shows a complete lack of understanding on how to use Twitter.

Fifth, understand and use hashtags wisely. Hashtags that define a topic are useful when conducting searches or grouping tweets into one heading. Some people love to make up hashtags and use many of them on a single tweet. I say choose one that encompasses the topic, if you want to have a greater presence around that tweet.

Sixth, interact! If you have chosen to participate in Twitter, make sure you are interacting with other people. If you see something that is interesting, re-tweet it. Answer people’s questions, comment on their posts.

Seventh, don’t just sell, sell, sell or self-promote. Nobody wants to see a sales message all the time or your bragging. Twitter allows you to unfollow people quite easily.

This is not the Twitter Bible. I am sure there are other things to keep in mind…what would you add?

 

Nothing falls out of the clear blue sky

15 Aug

One would hope anyway….

You know the feeling of having something just fall into your lap? It’s pretty sweet to get work/clients/customers “out of the clear blue sky.” But, the thing is, they aren’t just dropping in from outer space like ET. No, they are there because of your past performance.

If you have done good work in the past, you have past performance to back you up. If, on the other hand, you have done shoddy work in the past, your past performance will be an obstacle. Either way, your past can make stuff fall out of the clear blue sky–or not.

For marketing purposes, nothing is quite as powerful as word-of-mouth or referrals. If a trusted source gives you a name of say, a carpenter, you are very likely to contact that person. That person has been “cleared.” If you call the carpenter to come fix your broken bannister, you are not contacting him out of the clear blue sky. You asked around and found that someone recommended this particular carpenter.  For the carpenter, who may have been sitting back that particular day, it felt like he got business fairly easily. He didn’t. He earned it, right?

Your past performance can help you earn new business–and it can help keep business away.

 

 

And another thought on social media ROI

12 Aug

Social media is about connecting with people on a more intimate and individual level than mass media. In the past, companies spoke at their audiences through advertisements and other marketing forms. Now, companies can INTERACT with their audiences, in fact making communications more of a two-way phenomenon.

With that in mind, the closest comparison to social media is in-person networking. I wonder how many companies calculate the ROI of sending a company representative to a networking event. If the person makes ten connections but no sales is that considered bad ROI?

Networking, and social media, is about building connections. There may or may not be a dollar value that can be attached to those connections.

Thoughts?

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