SOCIAL MEDIA IS THAT THAT: SOCIAL

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

…which means that the rules of etiquette apply. If you want to build your brand using social media outlets, remember your table manners.

 

Use the right utensils.

Those unaccustomed to fine dining can get overwhelmed by the broad array of silverware—which fork should I use for salad and why are some utensils above my plate? Many marketers who are just entering the social media world can feel the same way. There are lots of digital tools, and a savvy marketer needs to understand the role each plays in your overall marketing mix. Facebook and Twitter are great tools to build traffic to a website that can provide more information. A blog can provide a forum for direct interaction with your customers, and YouTube is great for product demonstrations, and sites like Pinterest leverage the viral nature of the internet.

 

Be a good conversationalist

Be engaging. Your customers want to interact with your brand, talk with you, learn from you, and buy from you. What do you have of value to share? The only way to build “followers” or “fans” is to offer something they want. In social media , content is king, so be sure that you are offering strong content. Typically, it is good manners to follow the 80/20 rule; offer 80% content that is helpful, useful and focuses on your customers and only 20% that focuses on you or sells your product or service.

Keep your elbows off the table

Don’t be invasive. Engage with them without overpowering them. If you send messages, posts or tweets too often, you will become a nuisance. Do some informal research with some of your customers to find out how often they want to hear from you. Each industry will be different, so take the time to determine the proper frequency of communication for your brand and your industry.

 

Don’t take too large a portion of any one food

Understand that social media is just one vehicle for engaging with your customers. Because it’s the latest and greatest tool, many marketers may become overly dependent on it. It is a great tool to use, but it needs to be strategically planned as a part of an overall marketing strategy. Traditional media like TV or radio still has its place. A personal letter or direct mail piece, printed on fine quality business stationery may also be part of your brand-building efforts. Together they provide an overall impression of your brand that is bound to be memorable.

Be respectful of others

If you follow these rules, you will find a logical, balanced way to incorporate social media tools into your marketing mix to build a lasting impression on your customer. To grow your brand, engage your customer with compelling content consistently and you will grow your business.

 

IS BEING AN @#%HOLE PART OF YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

415V7guyPoL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_I recently read a book by Robert Sutton, Ph.D. and simply had to write about it. I apologize for the crude reference, but I do try to be accurate. This is the exact title of the book: The No Asshole Rule. The book describes the business impact of working with assholes. (By the way, the Dr. Sutton feels that “jerk,” “creep,” “bully,” or a whole host of other adjectives are not nearly as effective a descriptor as “asshole” for the type of person he is referring to). There is no other word that can quite pinpoint this person, so throughout this blog I will use his word; my apologies to anyone who may be offended.

The author, a Stanford professor, contends that assholes are toxic to your company and no matter how brilliant they may be, they should not be tolerated in your company. He defines them as individuals who belittle, berate, intimidate and otherwise demean other employees, particularly those in less powerful positions than their own. The negative impact of such individuals is far-reaching, as they:

  • lower morale
  • squelch innovation and creativity
  • inhibit cooperation and teamwork
  • discourage risk-taking
  • decrease productivity
  • complicate hiring process, as the best and brightest will not tolerate such behavior

One company calculated that the cost of one of their top performers, who was also highly offensive, at $160,000. That’s a pretty high price.

Furthermore, Dr. Sutton contends that if you work with these types of people, you have a much higher likelihood to act like one yourself. I have found what he says to be true. At one point, I worked in a very demanding corporate environment with several prime examples of what the author described. Once there was a time when my boss took a hard line on a mistake that she believed was made by the agency. I felt I had to carry this line in my discussions with them, and I found myself firing off an accusatory email demanding restitution. But even before it was discovered that we were at fault, I felt horrible for taking such a line. In the end, I apologized profusely, but I believe the damage to our relationship had already been done.

After that, I took immediate steps to disengage myself from that leadership style.

There is a useful chapter on how to survive working with these types of individuals. The advice is to take protective measures to emotionally detache yourself from your work (very hard to do if you’re passionate about your work). Interestingly, the author does not believe you can thrive, only that you can survive interactions with such people.

As a Personal Branding strategist, I found this book to be highly instructive. When I talk with executives in any field, ultimately the questions are “what is your leadership brand?” or “what kind of leader do you want to be?” How you express your brand is a part of your brand.

The author talks about the upside of assholes, and yes, there is an upside. As my amusing (if somewhat crass) brother-in-law points out, “@#%holes make s#@% happen!” Unfortunately, leading by fear and intimidation can be highly productive, as employees will scramble to get answers, to get work done, to perform, simply so that they won’t be yelled that or berated or demeaned anymore. Apparently, the recently deceased Steve Jobs was one of the most famous assholes in the business world. Certainly he was able to lead his teams at Apple to incredible achievements…but at what price?

From a leadership branding standpoint, every leader needs to decide if this is a style you’d like to take on. Do you like the feel of power that comes from showing yourself smarter, faster, better than others in your world? In the short-term, you may be able to successfully lead a team to Apple-sized greatness by being an asshole. But is it worth it? Does the end justify the means?

It wasn’t for me.

If there is anyone whom I have treated like an asshole, I humbly apologize. I certainly do not want that to be part of my personal brand.

If you are a leader working on development of your personal brand, I highly recommend this book. It will help you examine your behavior and ensure that you are not treating others in such a negative way.

KEEPING TOP-OF-MIND WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

No matter what business you are in, you need to purposefully, thoughtfully and carefully plan out ways to stay top-of-mind with your customer base. If you sell consumer packaged goods, you are likely to use television advertising to let people know about your great product. If you are a retailer, you might use radio or newspaper to remind people to come to your store. But if you are a small business owner, how do you choose the right media for your business?

Knowing your customers’ behaviors will help you choose the right media.

What do they do? How do they spend their day? What does a day in the life of your customer look like?

What TV shows do they watch and when do they watch them? Do they read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs? Do they spend time online? Where? Are they involved in online communities like Facebook or MySpace? Which email service do they use? Which search engine? Are they a part of a group, i.e., a book club, association, woman’s group, church, charitable organization, country club? Do they listen to the radio? Podcasts? Are they creating content for YouTube? With respect to your industry, what do they buy or use or create right now?

Understanding where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis will help you in choosing the right media.

The key to marketing is to speak to the right person at the right time with the right message…simple, but not easy. Ideally, you would only need to advertise right when you know your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If you sell pumpkins for Halloween or Easter baskets in the spring, your timeframes for staying top-of-mind are much more targeted. But for most small businesses, you need to be out there talking about what you have to offer consistently, because you never know when someone is going to need your services.

That’s why I recommend developing different tactics for your marketing plan. You will want to mix it up a bit, using many different media to keep in touch with your customers. If you are a small business that sells business-to-business, it may be as simple as writing an email, then following up with a phone call, then sending them a letter, then commenting on something they said in social media (perhaps a comment on their blog or a re-tweet of their twitter posting) You can meet them at a trade show, send them a direct mail piece, schedule a meeting with them, then send another email, and then another letter. As you vary the approach, you will learn which forms of communication work best (or you will learn which to avoid in future!). It may be that the variety itself is what draws them in. You keep their interest by your variety of communication.

In all these communications, your goal should be to build engagement in a way that matches your brand statement. If you send an email, make sure that it is clear and concise and free of typos. If you make a phone call, be animated, respectful of their time, and have something important to say. If you send them a letter, you’ll want to make sure it is a personalized note on high-quality stationery that speaks to their critical business issues.

Make sure that your communications are relevant to them and speak to them about topics that matter to them. If you end up talking about your products/services, make sure to do it in a way that highlights how it helps them. Highlight blogs or articles you think might be of interest to them. This shows that you care about them and their business (and that you can become a trusted partner because you understand their world).

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not reaching out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it’s an old-school tactic that always brings results, or a new digital technology that allows you to track your customer’s initial evaluation of your website, or a sophisticated affiliate marketing program, there are a myriad of ways to communicate. Which ones work best for you and why?

 

REVISIT YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

Written by Rahna Barthlemess for Southworth Blog

January will be here before you know it, and many businesses have their fiscal year on the same schedule as their calendar year. Get a jumpstart on your planning by evaluating your business for the upcoming year.

It doesn’t matter if you work at a large corporation or if you are a one-man show; everyone needs to revisit their business plan occasionally.

In corporate settings, there is usually an annual strategic plan presented to senior management for approval of the next year’s budgets. But if you’re in a small, privately-owned company, there may not be such rigors put in place. Small businesses need to force themselves into the same rigor, although the manner in which the review happens can be quite different.

KEEPING TOP-OF-MIND WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Written by Rahna Barthelmess originally for Southworth Blog

No matter what business you are in, you need to purposefully, thoughtfully and carefully plan out ways to stay top-of-mind with your customer base. If you sell consumer packaged goods, you are likely to use television advertising to let people know about your great product. If you are a retailer, you might use radio or newspaper to remind people to come to your store. But if you are a small business owner, how do you choose the right media for your business?

Knowing your customers’ behaviors will help you choose the right media.

What do they do? How do they spend their day? What does a day in the life of your customer look like?

What TV shows do they watch and when do they watch them? Do they read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs? Do they spend time online? Where? Are they involved in online communities like Facebook or MySpace? Which email service do they use? Which search engine? Are they a part of a group, i.e., a book club, association, woman’s group, church, charitable organization, country club? Do they listen to the radio? Podcasts? Are they creating content for YouTube? With respect to your industry, what do they buy or use or create right now?

Understanding where they live and what they do on a day-to-day basis will help you in choosing the right media.

The key to marketing is to speak to the right person at the right time with the right message…simple, but not easy. Ideally, you would only need to advertise right when you know your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If you sell pumpkins for Halloween or Easter baskets in the spring, your timeframes for staying top-of-mind are much more targeted. But for most small businesses, you need to be out there talking about what you have to offer consistently, because you never know when someone is going to need your services.

That’s why I recommend developing different tactics for your marketing plan. You will want to mix it up a bit, using many different media to keep in touch with your customers. If you are a small business that sells business-to-business, it may be as simple as writing an email, then following up with a phone call, then sending them a letter, then commenting on something they said in social media (perhaps a comment on their blog or a re-tweet of their twitter posting) You can meet them at a trade show, send them a direct mail piece, schedule a meeting with them, then send another email, and then another letter. As you vary the approach, you will learn which forms of communication work best (or you will learn which to avoid in future!). It may be that the variety itself is what draws them in. You keep their interest by your variety of communication.

In all these communications, your goal should be to build engagement in a way that matches your brand statement. If you send an email, make sure that it is clear and concise and free of typos. If you make a phone call, be animated, respectful of their time, and have something important to say. If you send them a letter, you’ll want to make sure it is a personalized note on high-quality stationery that speaks to their critical business issues.

Make sure that your communications are relevant to them and speak to them about topics that matter to them. If you end up talking about your products/services, make sure to do it in a way that highlights how it helps them. Highlight blogs or articles you think might be of interest to them. This shows that you care about them and their business (and that you can become a trusted partner because you understand their world).

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not reaching out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it’s an old-school tactic that always brings results, or a new digital technology that allows you to track your customer’s initial evaluation of your website, or a sophisticated affiliate marketing program, there are a myriad of ways to communicate. Which ones work best for you and why?

PROFESSIONALISM

Written by Rahna Barthelmess for Southworth Blog

It is important to present yourself and your company in a very professional manner. You are trying to communicate to your clients and customers that you have something compelling to offer—something that solves a problem they have or meets a need in a truly unique way. So you will want to be professional in the way that you deliver your message to your target audience.

Professionalism is conveyed in many different ways, both “internally” and “externally.” You should take some time to think about both.

Internal professionalism communicates to your customers that you have the knowledge, expertise or background to deliver for them. Think about what skills your customer would expect you to be strong in, and then find ways to subtly convey that professionalism to them. Are there educational milestones or certifications that would be meaningful to your clients? Have you or your company won any awards that would impress them? Put these on your company letterhead or include them in your proposals.

NOT HAPPY WITH YOUR GOOGLE RANKING? TRY SEO!

web-1608427__340As I have been helping companies develop intelligent digital marketing plans, I have had to keep up with many different marketing disciplines, and one that I have gotten to know more about recently is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Although I always knew it was a serious discipline, I never really understood it fully. I had a vague notion that if you identified your keywords and put those as meta-tags and meta-descriptions throughout the various pages of your website, this would be good enough. It might take a while, but eventually, Google would find you and add you to the list of others who do what you do. Boy, was that naïve thinking!

There’s a lot more to it than that. SEO can be a full-time discipline and by activating the expertise and prowess of these professionals, a website can jump from complete obscurity to Google page 1 in a matter of months for as little as $199/month! It’s still a little bit magical to me, but there is a science to it. By systematically placing articles and directory notifications throughout the worldwide web, any website can rise quickly in their ranking. The tricky part is, though, that if you put yourself out there in too many places too quickly, the search engines may declare you a “spammer” (thus negating all your hard work). This is called Black Hat SEO and is to be avoided.

I have worked over the past six months with my digital partner, Starboard Digital, to help create digital marketing plans and execute SEO programs THAT WORK! The team of experts activates an organic SEO campaign that helps clients achieve phenomenal results. How does a website go from 3,000 hits per month to 11,000 hits per month in just 3 months without spending tens of thousands of dollars a month? By carefully reviewing the possible keywords, evaluating online search patterns, picking the right keywords, and executing an ongoing on-site and off-site SEO plan, web-wide, that optimizes the site by leveraging the algorithms used by today’s top search engines.

There are other methods for building traffic to your site, but nothing has the long-lasting impact that organic SEO can provide. An Organic SEO Campaign involves the following steps:

  • Review the client’s online goals and digital plan, paying close attention to details on what describes the ideal client(s). This will help guide your SEO team to find the right keywords for your site.
  • Research relevant keywords – priority is given to find those terms relevant to the ideal client, identified target market and SEO goals that will convert website visitors into leads.
  • Review the site’s existing content with regards to researched keywords and perform on-site SEO optimization including title tags, meta-tags and descriptions.
  • Manage the potential recommendations of additional SEO’d website content and social media content that will creative positive visitor experiences online, support SEO goals, and create more opportunity for lead generation.
  • Implement off-site SEO efforts including Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics setup and configuration, directory submissions, article marketing, social marketing, on-going link building, competitor analysis, and website traffic reporting.
  • Monitor/Measure SEO Results. Choosing the right success metrics and setting goals is one of the most important pieces of any search engine marketing campaign. An SEO campaign is measurable, and adjustments are made based on how the site is performing.

Want to dramatically build traffic to your website? Give us a call; we can help you develop a smart SEO plan that fits in with your overall digital strategy and builds traffic to your site.

THE DISCIPLINE OF BRAND POSITIONING

crosshair-1345868__340The process of branding is of the head AND the heart, both a “left-brained” and “right-brained” activity. In your branding efforts, you should listen to what your consumers (and potential consumers) have to say about your brand and your category. Discover their hopes, their dreams, and their fears as it relates to your brand and your offering. This is usually a right-brained (heart) activity.

But there is also a discipline to developing a brand. When I was a Brand Manager at Miracle-Gro, I had the extreme good fortune to have been taught by Richard D. Czerniawski and Michael W. Maloney, co-authors of the book Creating Brand Loyalty: The Management of Power Positioning and Really Great Advertising and Competitive Positioning: Best Practices For Creating Brand Loyalty. They teach the process of brand positioning, the discipline of carving out a brand’s unique place in a consumer’s world. They put forth a framework for developing the brand positioning statement that I have followed throughout my entire career. While every brand is unique and the thought process I use has evolved over the years, the basic structure is so simple and so sound that I still use it to great effect today. If you can articulate a brand’s positioning statement within this context, you understand your brand. And if you understand your brand, you can communicate it more clearly.

The basic framework is this:

To (target audience), (my brand) is the brand of (competitive arena) that provides (key benefits) because (reason to believe).

Simple, right? Sure!

But usually simple is hard. Each of these parenthetical areas needs to be thoroughly researched and understood in order to get to the heart of a brand’s positioning. It works for product branding, corporate branding and personal branding. No matter what type of brand you are managing, think about your own brand within this context; what does your positioning statement look like?

If you’d like help, give us a call!

THE IMPORTANCE OF “TOP OF MIND”

head-1965676__340For many of my clients, keeping it simple and going back to the basics is really what they need. Despite all the changes in media outlets from YouTube to Twitter, email marketing to mobile QR campaigns, the principles of solid branding and marketing remain unchanged. Clarity of message, consistency across multiple media outlets, relevant consumer connections, and a strong call to action are still the main ingredients to a solid presentation of a brand.

One aspect of consistency that needs to be harnessed is the concept of remaining “top of mind.” Many clients I talk with have great ideas for ways to communicate all the wonderful benefits of using their products or services. They create a slick brochure, have a great website or a compelling ad that they run once on the radio….and then they wonder why the phone is not ringing. They are forgetting about being top of mind.

Consumers buy things on THEIR time, not yours, which means that you need to be at the forefront of their minds when they are thinking about acting in your category. That’s why TV commercials air more than once, or why you end up getting eight pieces of direct mail correspondence about the same cable upgrade. These advertisers know that they simply need to remind you of their existence (and their benefits) so that when you are ready to upgrade your cable service, they are top of mind.

How can you be top of mind? The key is to find ways to continually interact with your target audience in ways that are highly relevant to them. Send them a card on their birthday like Toys R Us does for millions of kids nationwide. Send them a newsletter full of interesting information that really helps them in their work. Figure out which blogs they read, or which publications they read and write an article or guest blog for that publication. As a matter of fact, you need to think about how you can have multiple touchpoints with your target audience in many different ways in order to keep it fresh.

If you brainstorm ways to interact with your target audience on a regular basis, you will be well on your way to a great marketing plan that will keep you top of mind (and keep your sales going strong)! Give us a call if you’d like some help strengthening your brand presentation. We’d be happy to help!

GETTING EXPERT ADVICE TO TAKE YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

One plus one really does equal three!
1+1=3

For over three years, I have taught Branding, Positioning and Marketing at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. I have met all types of entrepreneurs at every stage of business development—those who want to start/have started/want to sell their entrepreneurial idea to someone. Being an entrepreneur is great—there’s a sense of freshness and innovation that comes from building something new….but it can also be quite lonely. You have to carry the energy of the company/product/service all by yourself. As a Business Advisor for The Entrepreneurial Center, I have also provided one-on-one coaching to entrepreneurs, so I have seen first-hand how business owners benefit from having expert advice for the growth of their business.

That’s why I’m so excited about a new program The Entrepreneurial Center is providing, the Women’s Business Roundtable, a monthly program that allows entrepreneurs to discuss the strategy and tactics for growing their businesses. This program is also designed to provide women entrepreneurs on-going access to experts in finance, legal matters, marketing, cash flow management, sales techniques, and every other aspect of business that women entrepreneurs must juggle. Every month, there will be an opportunity to revisit the critical areas of your business, including branding best practices, cash flow management, developing sales strategies and addressing legal issues that arise in your business.

If you are a woman who lives in Connecticut and you’d like to stop struggling in your business and tap into expert resources that you might not have been able to afford on your own, you should come to the free Entrepreneurial Center Open House on March 9th. Here are some of the benefits of coming to the Open House on March 9th:

  • Find out more about how you can get involved in the Women’s Business Roundtable
  • Get a free professional photograph (headshot) that you can use on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites
  • Provide feedback to the Entrepreneurial Center about programs and advice you need to grow your business
  • Network with other like-minded entrepreneurial women to create business opportunities for all!

I hope to see you there.

If you’re not a Connecticut Business woman, you should seek out those who can help you develop your ideas and grow your business. Here are some ideas for ways to get some expert help:

  • Check out the activities of your local SBA (Small Business Administration) office. There are tons of low/no-cost programs that can give your business an injection of inspiration or information that might be just what you need!
  • Call us! We at Beacon Marketing have inspired countless other businesses to better marketing success and would be happy to help your venture grow
  • Gather your own group of networking contacts to brainstorm about each other’s businesses

As Mark Victor Hansen says, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” Gather your team and watch your business prosper!

Save the date of March 9th
from 4:30-6:30 pm.
To sign up, 
please click here
or call 860-768-5681 for more information!