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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?

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.


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.



Some thoughts on the ROI/ROE of social media

11 Aug

Increasingly, I am seeing articles out there about measuring the Return on Investment (ROI)/Return on Engagement (ROE) in social media.  This morning, I read an article that went so far as to show you how to calculate the dollar figures of investment and the projected value of any customers you may get from your blog.

The thing is this: what are you using social media to accomplish? Without knowing the answer to that, there is no measurement available. If you are indeed using your blog simply to generate sales, it is easy to calculate if you are getting a decent ROI.

However (you knew this was coming), using social media can help you/your business accomplish many goals, such as:

  • Thought leadership
  • Image/branding
  • Name recognition
  • Networking (as in actually meeting other people)

These are not so easily measured in numbers and certainly not in dollars, and yet they all have value.

My conclusion is that you should not waste your time trying to measure your ROI/ROE but instead ask yourself if your social media use is generating value for you. If you are spending hours and hours a day on social networks and haven’t made one solitary connection, it is clear that there is no value for you. If you have made connections, improved your image, heightened your name recognition, perhaps that is the value you seek.

What are your thoughts? What makes you use social media for business purposes?

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.

Marketing materials don’t replace salespeople

9 Aug

I just came back from a quick trip out to Assateague/Chincoteague Islands. As is the case in any tourist/vacation town, everywhere you went there were rows of brochures about things to do: kayaking, boat tours, bike rentals, etc. Those are all good to have. In fact, I ended up going on a boat trip because I  picked up a brochure for it.

On Sunday, I was at the visitor center on Assateague. They have lots of exhibits about the area, its history and its flora and fauna. You could pretty much wander around the building looking at exhibits and picking up brochures.  However, you would have probably not really noticed or paid attention to the fact that nature bus tours leave from the center.

While talking to the woman at the information desk about trails and things to do on Assateague, she recommended taking the bus tour. She said that you would see the famous Chincoteague ponies, guaranteed, and also lots of other animals native to the area. You would be sitting in air conditioned bus going where nobody else is allowed to drive. In other words, she sold the tour. (BTW, we did see the ponies and a bald eagle, along with tons of egrets, ibis, osprey, and other animals, just like she said)

If she hadn’t given the pitch for the tour, it would have not been on my agenda or even on my radar. A posting about the tour or a brochure alone would not have been sufficient. A knowledgeable salesperson made the difference.

When you can’t have a salesperson, you need marketing materials. But marketing materials should never replace salespeople completely.

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.