Posts Tagged ‘Brand’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Who Are the Online Influencers, and How Can You Reach Them?

Stocksy_txp89ac3847maA000_Small_295975Is your business taking advantage of online influencers to build your reputation, build relationships and make sales? Online influencers—or people whose opinions are shared online and disproportionately influence others—come in several varieties, including:

  • Bloggers with lots of followers among your target market (check out Klout or Alltop to help you identify these),
  • Journalists who report about your industry (you’ll know these by reading industry publications, major newspapers and business publications), and
  • Decision-makers (and those connected with them) at companies you want to sell to (LinkedIn is a useful tool for identifying these).

To successfully reach and influence online influencers, follow these steps:

  • Know what your goals are. Do you want a key influencer to write about your company in a newspaper, review your product on her blog, or introduce you to someone who can help your business grow? By determining specific goals, you’ll be better able to identify which influencers will be most useful in achieving them.
  • Be active on the social channels your influencers frequent. That includes social media as well as the influencers’ own blog and/or website. Spend some time “lurking” to get a sense of what the person cares about and thinks before you reach out to him or her.
  • Start small. Retweeting or sharing an influencer’s post is a good start to getting yourself on their radar. Then move on to commenting on posts. Don’t just say “Great post!” but offer a brief, thoughtful insight—ideally, you want to engage the person in an online conversation or get a conversation going among other followers.
  • Acknowledge any interaction. If an online influencer responds to your comment, retweets something you tweeted or even just thanks you for a comment, be sure to respond!
  • Move it on up. Once you feel that the influencer is aware of you as an individual and you’ve built up some goodwill on social media, you can reach out via email. To avoid being perceived as spam or a “cold call,” refer to your social media relationship and any mutual connections you may have. You don’t want to seem like a stalker or salesperson, so if email doesn’t get a response after two or three tries, go back to social media.
  • Once you’ve made a connection, be straightforward. Politely ask for what you want from the person, be it an introduction, an article or a review: “I’d love it if you’d review our new product X. May I send you a sample?”
  • Maintain the relationship. Don’t go dark once you get what you want. Keep the relationship going by interacting with your influencer just as you would any friend or colleague. 

The Customer Experience Can Always Be Improved

About this series: This series of articles from Nextiva will help you grasp of the essentials of customer service: the principles and guidelines that will serve you well in any era, regardless of trends, changing technology, and a constantly evolving customer base. Our guide is Micah Solomon, customer service and customer experience consultant, author, and speaker.

Customers place a certain value on consistency and familiarity when it comes to painlessly ordering or experiencing goods and services. For example (as a customer myself):

  • When I order something online from a company I’ve visited before, I expect the menu screen to be essentially the same as I’ve become accustomed to—I don’t want to bother with relearning the ordering protocol.
  • When I phone my heating oil company to place an order, I expect the usual protocol: to be told the current price per gallon, to be given a reasonable time frame for the delivery, and to have the delivery driver already know exactly where my fill spout is and how to get to it, without requiring me to be home at the time.

However, while customers value a feeling of consistency, a masterful company knows it always needs to improve, even to maintain that semblance of consistency, because customer expectations are continually getting more intense.

In the early twentieth century, just about thirty years after the telephone was invented and greeted with awe, the great writer and observer Marcel Proust made note of how unappreciated the phone had already become. Within a single generation, the telephone had gone from a miracle to an ordinary nuisance, spending more time complaining when hum or static broke up the line than on recognizing the essential wonder of this still quite new technology.

What was true of the telephone then is true today of all aspects of the customer experience.  And today, of course, the timetable in which perceptions change is much shorter than thirty years. What was a groundbreaking improvement in customer convenience last year is ho-hum today; what was timely last week feels as slow now as a dial-up modem.

Nordstrom (c) Micah Solomon micah@micahsolomon.com

Nordstrom (c) Micah Solomon micah@micahsolomon.com

A masterful company understands this and adapts and retools continually. For instance, a retail chain could have a simply stated goal as follows for each new location: “Make this store better than the last one we opened.” This simple approach is an optimal way to improve with every store opening and also avoid endless second-guessing and regrets about past shortfalls.

“Better,” sadly, is always going to be subjective.  And “better” very likely does not mean “change up everything.”  To do so will unnerve your existing customers who have gotten used to things the way they are.  And it may also deter not-yet customers, who are surprised by something so outside the norms of your industry.  A subtle, deft hand is necessary.

And, sometimes, the success or failure of your intended improvement won’t be clear for some time.  This stuff isn’t easy.  But standing still doesn’t work either.  Because it will feel to your customers, and your prospective customers, as if you’re moving backward.

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Sooner or later as you continue to improve the customer experience you provide, you’re going to run into another issue:  “Is this [our customer experience, our customer service] better than it needs to be?

Think this through carefully.  Features (even very subtle features and nearly invisible touches) that your customers value need to be shielded from willy-nilly cost cutting. At the same time, there are undoubtedly excesses built into some customer encounters and services. A specific sort of excess you should tune your antennae for is called lily-gilding. (The term comes from an approximation of Shakespeare:’‘To gild refined gold, to paint the lily’’—to overdo the already perfect, in other words.)

Lily-gilding is the brilliantly hand polished finish on an end table—when the end table is always hidden by a tablecloth. It’s an air conditioning compressor too powerful for the space it cools.

In customer interactions, lily-gilding takes the form of fancying up your offering beyond what your customers are interested in (or interested in paying for). This has both obvious and hidden costs. The hidden costs include excess features that can make your offering less attractive by complicating it for customers or implying to customers that they’re paying for something they don’t need.

This is rarely a central problem in customer service.  But it is absolutely one to keep half an eye on as you strive, always, to improve. 


Three Ways to Improve Your Business Messaging

All businesses need to communicate a consistent story that describes who they are, what they do and why customers need their products or services.  But even relatively small businesses count on a number of employees to deliver the story in everything from advertising to bids.  Add social media to the mix and your business can become victim to issues ranging from sales errors to serious legal concerns.  To avoid potential financial losses or hits to your company’s reputation, you need to take control over every aspect of your business messaging to keep it correct and consistent.

Here are three methods for ensuring that the public hears the message that you intend to send.

Provide a Single Source of Key Company Information

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When a newspaper ad shows a 20 percent discount until July while your website shows a 10 percent discount until May, you have to honor the better offer.  You also have to honor bids offered to customers by sales reps who quoted lower prices shortly after you increased prices across your entire product line.  These can be costly errors that you can control by developing a better communication system with your employees.

Everyone in your company needs to turn to a single source where they can find the up-to-date information that they need to do their jobs effectively and accurately.  Here are two of the most typical examples of systems that can be worth the initial effort:

  • Marketing information can be maintained in word processing documents on your company’s network.  With an easy-to-follow organization and identification system, your employees can copy and paste this content into their advertising or other business documents to deliver a consistent message to the public.  But to be effective, the content needs to be up-to-the minute, so make sure that timely updates are a number one priority for the individuals who are responsible for them.
  • Product pricing information can be easy to find if your sales staff members can use their smart phones to gain instant access to a secure online database.  If your company’s growth requires you to find a high-tech solution to help your sales reps, this type of system might be a good investment to consider.  But even if your young company is operating on a shoe string budget, your reps should make a quick phone call to confirm prices before handing a quote over to a customer.

Channel All Important Communications Through One Person for Review

No matter how many safeguards that you use to ensure consistency, the most current information may not always be available.  In fact, your employees may not even be aware of your plans to target new types of customers or change prices within the next few weeks.

This is why you need to select a very small group of inner-circle staff members to have signing authority for the release of important messaging,- even if that “small group” consists of just you! 

Reserve Social Media Messaging for Employees That You Trust

Even in the hands of experts, social media campaigns can unexpectedly go wrong, as was the case in 2012, when McDonald’s launched a Twitter campaign and customers decided to use it to post complaints.  But social media has become an important part of company marketing tools, especially for small businesses looking to get maximum return on their limited advertising dollars.

Twitter quickly becomes a double-edged sword in the hands of your employees, even if their intentions are honorable.  What would happen if a loyal employee decides to respond in kind when a customer tweets a rudely-worded complaint?  The original complaint will likely fade out in a short time.  But a snarky response issued under your company’s name can catch the attention of the news media, causing serious damage to your brand.

Rule of thumb:  Grant permission to only a few individuals to broadcast messages on social media accounts that bear the company name.  And, while you may not have control over their private activities, strongly encourage all employees to keep your company name out of their personal Tweets, as well.  Also, consider putting together a style and communications guide to minimize the potential for off-message posts.

Never Underestimate the Power of Your Words

Clearly, the words that you broadcast to the world can make a tremendous difference to your company’s reputation and bottom line.  Taking control over your company’s message takes some effort, but it is a task that you should make a priority.


Mondays with Mike: 7 Crazy Ideas To Turn Your Customers Into Raving Fans

The far reach of social media has fundamentally altered the way in which we interact with one another.  Things happen lightning fast, and it’s commonplace to get moment-to-moment updates on what your friends are doing.  While you may believe that it is – in fact – possible to OD on never-ending selfies, the prevalence of digital photos and tweets that reach millions of followers is a huge opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs who are able to enlist their customers in building their brands.  Here’s how to convert your customers to your biggest fans:

  1. Have your clients do some of the work.  If you can find a way to let customers make doing business with you a unique and personalized experience, they’re far more likely to tell their friends about you.  The best recent example of this principle are the number of business popping up that provide detailed art instruction for a group of people to gather at a bar or restaurant and paint their own picture.  You see Facebook posts of smiling faces and proud amateur artists.  They’re selling the experience to their friends.
  2. Play hard to get.  The American Express Black Card is the best example bar none.  It’s obscenely expensive, but people fall all over themselves, coveting an invitation to open one, and only a few customers ever receive that invitation.  Creating a sense of exclusivity makes your product that much more desirable.
  3. Deny your own existence.  One of the reasons there was so much buzz about the Amex Black Card when it was created was because Amex refused to confirm the card’s existence.  They relied on the excitement of gossip and speculation to generate interest.
  4. ????????????????Encourage tattoos.  I know this tactic may sound extreme, but when folks start permanently applying your logo to their bodies, you’ve officially arrived.  Associating your brand with a lifestyle and developing a great logo is a good start.  Think no one would ever ink a logo?  Look around you at the beer labels, band logos, and Harley Davidson tattoos that are out there.  It’s possible.
  5. Go underground.  Throw exclusive parties for your very best customers – parties that they must be invited to attend.  Offering special perks for invitation only rewards clubs makes customers crave that favored status.
  6. Put your customers through boot camp.  The idea here is to have a series of steps that customers have to go through in order to achieve a special status.  Give them special status and reward them with exclusive offers that are available only to the elite customers who’ve been dedicated enough to reach your upper echelon.  Give customers a shirt or a car magnet that boasts about their status, and you’re generating interest everywhere your customer goes. 
  7. Create an annual event.  Start a tradition that anchors your company as a valuable member of your community.  Whether you sponsor a fall festival or a public Easter Egg hunt, giving your community something to look forward to creates lasting, positive associations for your company.

So the real secret of all of these techniques is what happens afterwards.  By creating loyal, dedicated fans of your brand, you’re inevitably creating brand ambassadors who will Tweet, Instagram, and Facebook about your company, spreading the word with every like, share, or comment.  That’s why these raving fans are so valuable – they become your cheerleaders and enthusiastically help build your brand.  


How to Lower Your Bounce Rate on Your Small Business Website

???????You have a beautifully designed website. Check. Targeted keywords on the website. Check. You have a way to capture email addresses on your website. Check. So why aren’t you getting more customers from your small business website? You might have a decent flow of people visiting your site, but if they’re not converting to sales, it’s time to look at the reasons why. Start by examining your bounce rate.

What the Heck is a Bounce Rate?

Just like a shiny rubber ball, your bounce rate happens when people land on your site and then quickly bounce away. You can find your bounce rate by looking at your Google Analytics once e month. The technical definition for bounce rate: the percent of people who leave your site after visiting just one page. The higher the bounce rate, the more people are leaving rather than looking around. The average bounce rate is 50%. Here’s an illustration:

  1. Someone searches for something they’re looking for online.
  2. Your site shows up in those search results. They click your link.
  3. They land on your home page, don’t see what they expected, then leave.

So the question is: why are they not finding what they want? Why do they leave before even exploring your site? Typically there are a few reasons for this.

1. Your Design is Unappealing

While you wouldn’t expect a visitor to your site to hold bad design against you, first impressions really do matter. And if your website hasn’t been updated for 5 years, or is cluttered with ads or popups, there’s not much you can do to convince people to stay, even if your products are amazing.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this: get a new design! Website design has come way down in pricing, and there are even templates and platforms you can customize and manage yourself.

2. Poor Keywords

Let’s say the name of your company is Red Ball Marketing. You don’t actually sell red balls, but people still land on your site looking to buy red balls. You’re probably not willing to change your company name, but you can put more effort into appearing in search results for better keywords. You should know your top 6 keywords. If you haven’t really put much thought into your keywords, you’ll get a mix of traffic of people looking for lots of things, but not really what you sell.

Figure out the top keywords your audience is searching for and make sure you use them throughout your site, especially in your blog titles and static pages. For your marketing company, that would be terms like:

  • Content marketing
  • Marketing firm
  • Marketing for small business

If you continue to work to build your presence online with those keywords, as well as blogging, you should start to move up those search results and attract people who are looking for what you’re selling.

3. You Lack Calls to Action

Now that search engines have led leads to your website, it’s your job to make them drink the koolaid. If your home page lacks any call to action, how will visitors know what you want them to do? Consider your call to action your instructions for visitors to your site. Do you want them to:

  • Buy from you?
  • Get a free quote?
  • Subscribe to your newsletter?
  • Download a free ebook?

Then let them know! Make your call to action bold, colored differently from surrounding text, and simple to follow.

Your website holds the potential to convert visitors into customers. But you’ve got to ensure you’re targeting the right people with your content and keywords, and that your site is an inviting place to shop. Then you can lower that bounce rate and increase sales!


Be Like Google: How to Build a Valuable Brand

Your company’s brand is what people say when you are not around. Customers buy from brands that they know, like and trust. If built right, your brand can be one of the most valuable assets your company owns.

Google-LogoThis past year, Google finally topped Apple for the title of the world’s most valuable brand. According to Millward Brown’s BrandZ study, Apple’s brand value diminished 20 percent to an estimated $148 billion while Google’s brand value increased 40 percent since last year to reach $159 billion. Rounding out the top five on the list of the most valuable brands are two more technology firms: IBM at $170 billion and Microsoft at $90 billion. The fifth spot is claimed by fast food giant, McDonald’s. Where is Coca-Cola? Number 6.

Including the top four most valuable brands, a total of 18 technology companies made the list accounting for $827 billion in brand value. Facebook’s brand value increased 68% to reach number 21, while Twitter and LinkedIn make their debut to the list coming in at 71 and 78 respectively.

According to financeonline.com, there are several explanations for Apple’s fall. Here is what happened and what small business owners can learn from the world’s top brands:

  1. Perfectionism can slow your company down. Apple and Google could not be more different with how they choose to roll out their products. Apple exemplifies perfection and secrecy, while Google is known for releasing beta versions of their products and embracing feedback from the crowd. Overall, Google seems to take more risk (like Google Glass and a self-driving car) and is less afraid of failure. Lesson: You will make mistakes, so fail faster. Done is better than perfect.
  2. Build your brand image carefully. Even today, the Apple brand is impossible to separate from its cofounder, Steve Jobs. Can the company keep its winning brand without its visionary leader? Pundits continue to ask questions like how much of Apple’s breakthrough products was the result of one man’s genius? Alternately, Google is seen as a team of incredibly talented people on a mission to develop the world’s most innovative ideas. Lesson: A brand image can grow more easily and sustainably if it is not be tied to one person.
  3. If you’re going to set the bar high, make sure you can reach it. For a decade, Apple redefined product categories with iTunes, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. This is what consumers have come to expect with every new product. Its failure to launch an innovative new product to match the genius of the past has contributed to its fall. Lesson: Don’t get caught in the Innovator’s Dilemma. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innovator%27s_Dilemma

Set the bar high for others, but be able to consistently reach it yourself.

How have you made your brand valuable?


Mondays with Mike: The Blend Strategy – Building Innovative Businesses

The difference between entrepreneurs and “normal” people is that normal folks may actually believe that it’s all been done before, that the good ideas are already taken.  Entrepreneurs know different.  We entrepreneurs believe that there’s always a fresh approach to a field or a product that can be profitable if it’s launched the right way.

One of the most effective ways to put a fresh spin on a business is by combining, or blending aspects of two different businesses.  Whether it’s as simple as combining peanut butter and jelly together in one jar, or as complex as blending drive-thru fast food service with the wedding industry to create Las Vegas’s drive-thru wedding chapels, creatively fusing two industries can give you an edge and set you apart from all of your competitors.

I’ve found two clever ways that entrepreneurs have used blending to create profitable ventures, and I’m sure there are more!

  1. Shared spaces.  Okay, this concept isn’t classic blending, but it certainly employs elements of the strategy.   The key concept of shared spaces is to place your business in proximity to other businesses so that you get a crack at their existing customers. Here’s how it works.  Grocery shoppers hit the in-store Starbucks for a $5 cup of coffee to sip while they shop.  Grocery shoppers also handle all of their banking needs at the in-store bank at the front of the grocery store.  From February to April, you can even have your taxes done in the grocery store!  My favorite example of shared spaces, though, is the Lowe’s Stocksy_txp7fd1b2b2qB5000_Small_39017hardware store near my house.  There’s a guy with a hot dog stand just as you head out of the exit, after you purchase your light fixtures, bird seed, and drywall.  He’s there 365 days a year – in fact, you can smell the sauerkraut before you get to the door.  It’s genius.  He sells more hot dogs than you could imagine – whether it’s to hungry contractors near lunchtime, or to hungry kiddos helping their parents shop for weekend projects.  Shared spaces can be a great way to get your business started.  The bonus is that your new small business lends added value to the existing store as well!
  2. Duplicating an existing method of delivery.  The Vegas drive-thru chapel fits this technique, as do drive-thru banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, and – my personal fave – drive-thru liquor stores.  Seeing a model of service delivery that works in one business and adapting it to another can be a goldmine.  Think about Ebay – they found a way to combine online product sales with the concept of an auction, complete with all the excitement of worrying about being outbid.  Their marketplace blended online sales with garage sales and added an auctioneer.  Look around you at your local businesses and see if there’s a unique delivery method that you can adapt to suit your vision.

Entrepreneurs are some of the best out-of-the-box thinkers around, and I’m constantly amazed by the innovative blends that smart business owners develop and market to become great success stories.


How Men and Women Use Social Media Differently

Posted on by Barry Moltz

Stocksy_txp1dc7b8d3Cw4000_Small_193882Gender has always affected our buying decisions and this now extends to responding to online ads. Small businesses need to customize their social media strategies based on their type of customer to achieve the best results.

According to recent studies by Pew, Exact Target and Nielson, 56% of men who surf the web will respond to ads with coupons compared to 39% of women. Alternately, 71% of women will ‘Like’ or follow a particular brand for deals compared to only 18% of men.

How does each sex use social media differently? Survey results show that men are most likely to use it for business and dating. Specifically, 27% of men use it for business and 12% for social dating. Women use social media for staying in contact with friends, blogging, photo sharing, entertainment and finding how to information.

On social media, men are looking for quick access to brand deals and information. Therefore, they are much more likely to use coupons and scan QR codes. Survey results show that women will ignore any paid digital advertising from brands (including text ads) and instead focus on finding more meaningful informational engagement that matches their interest.

What themes resonates with men online?

  • Cars
  • Sports
  • Action
  • Sex

The themes that women most connected to are:

  • Sentimental
  • Family
  • Real life situations
  • Children
  • Pets

Both men and women interests overlap and enjoy these themes:

  • Humor
  • Value
  • Celebrity Endorsements
  • Aspirational

Men and women also use smart phones differently. Men are focused on getting news, watching video and utilizing GPS (since they never ask for directions!). Women primarily use mobile phones for texting, photo sharing and playing games.

How can a small business owner use this information? If a product is targeted at men, use action and sports themes that are more likely to resonate with them. Use video, news formats and location based marketing. If a product is primarily aimed at women, the use of family, sentimental situations photos can be effective.

These survey results should be used only as guidelines. Of course, any business or targeted customer set may vary based on age, geographic location or experience.

Does your social media marketing strategy target men and women separately?


What Color Should Your Logo Be?

Small business owners fret over what their logo looks like. They want it to be clean, cool or fancy. What they should really focus on is how it makes a customer feel since logos play a large role in their purchasing decisions. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that children as young as two years old could recall a logo and its product 67% of the time. By eight, 100 percent of children tested could associate the logo with the product.

???????????????????????????Brand logos are valuable property because they evoke emotions connected with buying. For the first time in the history of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report, Apple was the top brand. Google jumped to number 2 and Coca-Cola, the brand that held the number one position for 13 years was number three. The total value of all 100 Best Global Brands was $1.5 trillion with the Google brand logo being worth over $100 billion alone.

According to a new research at Financesonline.com, colors evoke a specific emotional response from a customer. This is important since 75% of all buying decision are emotional.

Here are what specific colors mean:

Red means active, passionate, trustful, love, and intensity. Think Coca-Cola and Target. Red Bull wants customers to see their brand as intense and active.

Yellow means energy and joy. Think Ferrari, Shell and Best Buy. McDonalds wants customers to associate their brand with happiness.

Orange means creative, determined, joyful and the beach. It can stimulate mental activity. Think Fanta and Firefox. The Home Depot wants to help its customers be creative in the Do-It-Yourself market of home construction and repair.

Pink is often associated with feminine brands. It means love, warm, sexuality and nurturing. Think Barbie and T-Mobile. Oprah’s Oxygen network is aimed at women.

Blue means depth, stability, calm, trust, comfort, and reliability. Think Samsung, IBM, Intel, GE and Ford. When a customer buys from Nextiva, they know that their office communications will always be reliably delivered.

Green means relax, peaceful, hopeful and natural. Think Starbucks and BP. Heineken beer wants their customers to feel exactly this way.

Brown is associated with the Earth. It means reliability, support, dependability and grounded. Think Godiva Chocolate and M&Ms (at least the brown ones). UPS has become synonymous with this type of consistent reliability.

Black means formal, mystery, bold, luxurious and serious. Think Blackberry. Customers shop at Tiffany’s for that special occasion.

A logo should not just be “pretty or cool”. Determine what feeling do you want your brand to evoke? Choose your colors wisely.

Barry Moltz helps get small businesses unstuck. His new book, “How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again” is now available. 




 
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