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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?

 

 

A tagline that works

10 Aug

Taglines can help or hamper your marketing efforts. They must be clear and relevant. A few nights ago, I was watching TV and saw the following commercial for Red Lobster:

The last line is: “I see food differently. “The tagline for this campaign is Sea Food Differently.  I think this is tagline writing at its best: clever, play on words, and RELEVANT. They are saying that Red Lobster does seafood differently (presumably better) than other restaurants. Perfect.

Compare that to Salonpas. Salonpas, which has a completely weird name that makes me think of a hair salon, is a pain relief patch. They are running this spot on TV right now:

The tagline is: “Nothing’s been proven to beat the relief.”

What does that mean? It is saying that nothing is proven to provide relief–which, I am pretty sure, is not the message they intended.

Some taglines make you scratch your head, some don’t make you think at all, and some, the ones that work, make you think.

Just because its on the computer doesn’t mean you can’t act human

4 Aug

Be warned: this is a rant.

Lately, I have been getting followed and unfollowed on Twitter by a guy who has a networking group here in DC.  He happens to have many Twitter handles (and a surprising number of followers).  He has used at least five different handles to follow me, and then, I take it because I haven’t followed back, he unfollows me. Is this a good way to get me to follow him? NO!!!

Say this interaction was taking place on the phone instead of on Twitter. It would go like this:  He would call from his cell phone, and hang up once I answered. Then he would call from his office line, and hang up again. And so forth. This would be very annoying, and bordering on perverted behavior (if there were any heavy breathing involved).

If he actually wanted to talk to me, he might call and say “Hello, I really think you have some great ideas to share, and I would like to talk to you some more.”  But apparently, he is either unaware of how to behave like a human, or is just interested in numbers.

There is no great mystery to getting Twitter followers: it is simply about behaving courteously and human. That is, showing interest, re-tweeting content to show support and giving credit, and INTERACTING.

Why do so many people forget they are dealing with other people on the Internet? You would not walk into a store and yell obscenities, for instance.  And yet people do this on Twitter as a matter of course.

A computer is just a tool. It need humans to run it.

 

 

Are you ready for prime time?

1 Aug

Here’s something to think about: you can start marketing too early. Sometimes, you  aren’t ready for prime time, as they say.

Last week, I attended a networking event. There, I met two self-employed event planners. They were both very pleasant and seemed knowledgeable about the ins and outs of event planning. Both gave me their business cards. As I always do when I get back from this type of event, I went to their websites. At least, I tried to go to their websites.  Neither website was up–one was “under construction” and the other was a placeholder from the domain registrar. Although both ladies had nice (professionally designed and printed) cards, they skipped a step. You should always have your website up before you hand out cards with the URL–even if it is a one page describing your business and providing contact info.

Later on in the evening, I met two women who are planning to open a yoga studio. They did not have cards, and they told me their website was under construction. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the studio. One of the yogis told me they are considering doing a Groupon…the week they open. I told her that that I would not advise that since she wouldn’t even have worked out any kinks.

Here is an article from USA Today about Groupon (Is Groupon a great idea for entrepreneurs?)  Among the cons of using Groupon is that if you are not ready for the onslaught of business, you will end up turning away customers. Say the yogis get 40 people signed up, but the studio only holds 30, or their computer system has a bug and can’t register new customers? Then those potential customers are going to be disappointed and chances are, won’t be coming back (there are plenty of other yoga studios in the area).

The bottom line is that before you start any type of marketing, whether it be in-person networking or a traditional advertising/media campaign, you need to be ready for business. This means having your website up and running and all your business tools in order (e.g. invoicing, computer systems, ordering, etc.) People have limited time and resources and they will often not give you a second chance.  Or they will forget about you. Or they will think you are an amateur.

Not only should you be ready for prime time before you start marketing, you should be ready for business.

Bad habits or perception busters?

27 Jul

This morning on Yahoo.com there was an article about habits that can hold you back, which got me thinking about the things people do, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps subconsciously, that affect how they are perceived by others and that hold them back career-wise.  Some of these habits are particular pet peeves of mine, which certainly have changed the way I perceive someone.

Not answering direct emails: It makes it seem as though you don’t care enough about the sender to answer. If you work at an agency or for yourself, it is an absolute disaster not to answer client’s emails. If you are a client, and you don’t answer your email, you are making it very hard for the agency/representative to do its job on your behalf.

Not saying thank you: I have written about this before, but when someone does something for you just say thanks! A few months ago, I took out a couple hours of my day to meet with some people who were looking for advice. I did my best to listen and give suggestions. To this day, I have not received a solitary note of thanks. It makes me think that neither my time nor my input were in anyway valuable to them.

Not doing what you promised:  If you say you are going to get something by the end of the day, or that you will take on a project and then not do it, you are failing to keep your promises. This makes you seem unreliable, and uncaring. Last year, while working on a group project, one of the group members offered to complete a good chunk of the project. She never did. And she didn’t provide a reason, an excuse or even any further words about it. I would never work with her again. And I made sure that other people knew she dropped the ball.

Being habitually late: The article on Yahoo (link above) says this is a surefire sign of something going on…you resent having your time held hostage to someone else’s schedule. To me, it shows a deep disrespect and makes me perceive you as unreliable.  Enough said.

Never following up: This is a mistake that happens frequently. In the past few weeks, I have been getting estimates to get a fence built. So far, I have received four estimates. Guess how many follow up calls I have had to see if I am interested in moving ahead? None. Not one call. And you wonder why people don’t get business…they don’t even try to get it.

Not remembering/always forgetting:  This is a catch-all, but it covers things such as always forgetting you have met someone before, forgetting to do something, not remembering names, not remembering crucial details, etc.  If you have a bad memory, get an aid of some sort like a calendar or a smart phone.

The thing is some of these may just be annoyances and people will overlook them. But do some of them enough and it will affect how you are perceived. The flip side is that these are easy to fix and if you are aware that you are doing them you can change your ways. Have you recently lost a client? Did any of these play a part? Have you been overlooked for a job or a promotion? Are any of these habits yours?

 

 

 

Doesn’t everybody?

20 Jul

Some people think that books, magazines and newspapers are dead.  Borders, the bookstore chain recently in bankruptcy, is closing down all its stores. If you walk into a Barnes and Noble, the display for the Nook (their e-reader), has taken over the entrance. All around it seems that everybody is using tablets and e-readers to read books and magazine and that nobody is reading the printed on paper stuff anymore. But, that would be wrong.

Did you know that only 12% of U.S. adults own an e-reader (like a Kindle, Nook, etc.)? Or that 35% of U.S. adults own a smart phone (Iphone, Blackberry, etc.)? Given how the media reports things, and if you are surrounded by folks who are early adopters, then you could be excused for thinking the number was much much higher–like 99%.

The truth is that not everybody is on the smart phone/e-reader/all-computer-all-the-time bandwagon. The numbers above mean that nearly two thirds of adults in the US do NOT use a smart phone, and nearly 90% do not have an e-reader. This indicates to me that many many people out there are still consuming media in more “traditional” ways–like in a printed  format. Or perhaps are relying on television and radio.

It is a wrong (and dangerous) assumption to think that “everybody is doing it.” They are not. Unless it is breathing, not ever human being out there is doing (or thinking) the same thing as you are.

Last week, I attended a presentation purportedly about YouTube. In effect, it was about stuff you could do if you wanted to get together a video to promote your company (it was not a very in-depth or insightful presentation). One thing that the presenter asked was whether people in the room knew what QR codes are. I turned to a colleague sitting beside me and asked “who doesn’t?” It turns out that most in the room (all communicators I may add) had no idea. Because I know what a QR code is (a quick response code that has become ubiquitous on print ads everywhere, and which when scanned takes you to a website), and I see them everywhere, I assumed everyone else did too. Clearly, I was wrong.

You can’t assume that everybody knows something. In communications, making assumptions can be detrimental to making your message clear.

And yet, people using the above-mentioned QR codes in their ads are assuming that people know what they are! And also, they are assuming that people have a smart phone that they will use to scan the QR code. But if we go with the fact that 35% of people have a smart phone, and from my unscientific survey, even fewer know what a QR code is, then you are probably reaching somewhere south of 30% of people by using those codes. Think about that.

 

 

Getting more readers and getting unfollowed

18 Jul

Check out my guest blog post at the Downtown Women’s Club blog: 5 ways to get more readers to your blog. Hint: it has to do with being consistent and getting the word out. Special thanks to Diane Danielson for giving me the opportunity!

On social media and blogs, we are all trying to get more readers and more followers. If we are in business or marketing, we are also trying to convert some followers/readers/likers into customers. Right?

Lately, I have been cleaning up Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Basically, I have been reducing the numbers of people that I follow or am connected to. Let me tell you why.

It’s personal

On Facebook, which I consider a personal network, I have been “unfriending” anyone that I don’t know very well, or only know through business encounters. I tend to share my personal views and activities and really, would rather have fewer “friends” on Facebook than thousands of people with insight into my personal life.

It’s business

On LinkedIn, I have removed a few connections because I just don’t know enough about them. LinkedIn is a business network, and when you connect with someone, you have access to his/her connections. I want to be more careful with this network and not give away my hard-earned connections to people who are just trying to expand their own networks with little regard for what I do.

It’s common sense

I have been unfollowing lots of people on Twitter lately. Why? Because there is only so much time in the day, and there are so many tweets that I want to make sure to follow folks who are offering stuff that is relevant and/or interesting. I am on Twitter to share and to learn, but I don’t need to learn about what you did at the gym or whether your cat is at the vet. On Twitter, I definitely stopped following anybody who:

  • Self promotes endlessly
  • Uses crass expressions/language ALWAYS
  • Doesn’t ever share anything valuable (as defined by me)
  • Seems to be in a quest to get the most tweets per day ever
  • Who never ever interacts with me or re-tweets or even acknowledges my re-tweets (unless the person in question is a journalist/politician/world leader)

So yes, we are all trying to get more followers and to do that, you need to be aware of what gets you unfollowed.

Your thoughts?

 

More ways to make people dislike your company

13 Jul

It is the marketing kiss of death when people actively start disliking your company. People like to do business with people (and companies) they like. Except where there is monopoly–like with the power company or the phone or cable company–then people are forced to do business with companies they do not like very much.

Yesterday, Netflix became a very disliked company. In an email to subscribers (which again hit AFTER the press release hit the blogosphere), Netflix raised its prices for the second time in less than one year. The company, which was offering people a plan that allowed one DVD at a time (unlimited in a month) and unlimited streaming for $9.99 (raised from $8.99 last December), is now offering this combination for $15.99 OR you can get the DVD option only for $7.99 or the streaming option only for $7.99. You can read it Netflix own words here:  http://blog.netflix.com/2011/07/netflix-introduces-new-plans-and.html

Needless to say, a price hike of this magnitude was not greeted with open arms by Netflix subscribers. Just check out the more than 6,000 comments on the blog (link above), or these stories from USA Today and the New York Post.

On Twitter, many people are expressing their dislike for this price hike and threatening to cancel their subscription altogether.

Netflix is pretty disliked right now. But what really is driving the discontent?

1. Raising rates without offering more. In effect,  most people are complaining because Netflix’ streaming option does not offer the equivalent value of the DVD option (i.e. you can’t get everything on streaming that you can get on DVD).

2. Thinking your customers will grin and bear it. Yes, it probably will help to raise revenue….if you keep your current base! The result here is that customers will find other options better suited to the value they perceive the service should be worth.

3. Underestimating the power of social media. With Twitter and Facebook one person’s discontent spreads like wildfire.

4. Underestimating your customer’s intelligence. The email from Netflix about the price hike says this:

We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

 

This presumes customers want a choice or that they don’t like the choice they have or that if you put it as a choice then people will accept it.

Companies that treat their customers like revenue sources and not like people who actually do have a choice in which companies they do business with, risk losing business.  Netflix will probably survive this episode, but not without a lot of bad blood and bad publicity.

How to become the most hated company

12 Jul

Yesterday, I talked about how you can make sure people dislike you. It’s not hard–all  you have to do is be self-centered and creepy. Well, how about making your company on of the most hated companies in America? That is a new level of dislike, and Pepco has reached it.

The article about this “honor” in WTOP (Berzerk customers make Pepco ‘most hated’ in U.S.) tells us that the power company has had a drop in customer satisfaction since last year, due in part to:

frequent and wide-ranging outages made worse by belated customer service response… Pepco has had reliability problems in the past, but not as serious as the last year when its customers faced 70% more power outages than households in other metropolitan areas, along with outages lasting twice as long on average.

What is most interesting to me is how Pepco responded to this “accolade” reported in the website Business Insider. Here is what the article said

Pepco initially issued a statement questioning the validity of the Business Insider rankings, which it said could have been to drive up their readership.

It later retracted this statement, released another written statement in response to the survey. Pepco spokespeople declined to answer specific questions.

“While we certainly believe that this label is over the top, we have heard our customers loud and clear and are working hard to upgrade our system,” the second statement said.

Pepco’s communication department certainly does not get it.  You don’t get rid of something by attacking the source (unless it was some muck-raking tabloid). The lesson here is that Pepco is in denial about how it is perceived by its customers. As a company, it believes that if it says that it is fixing things, people should just accept it.

To become the most hated company you have to provide bad service, first and foremost. But you compound this by:

  • Denying that serious problems exist
  • Not doing enough to address those problems, or just giving lip-service to fixing said issues.
  • If criticized, pointing fingers at the source of criticism rather than dealing with the substance.

I tweeted out the WTOP article yesterday, and @pepcoconnect tweeted back: Working to get it right (with a link to this: http://pepcoconnect.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/working-to-get-it-right/ ) And if that is true, why on Friday night, did I lose power for one and half hours, for no apparent reason?