Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Give Your Customer Service a Checkup

Is your customer service up to par? Even if your business starts off with stellar service, it’s easy for your standards to slip as your business grows and you become less hands-on with all aspects of the company. Plus, consumers’ standards for service are higher than they’ve ever been,–and they have many options if your business doesn’t live up to their expectations.

How can you make sure your customer service stays stellar day in and day out? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my website user-friendly? Can customers easily tell what to do when they visit your business website? Make sure key information, like your business’s phone number, hours, address and directions, are visible right near the top of the home page.
  • Stocksy_txpc1714160lD3000_Small_130635Is my physical location welcoming? A clearly-marked entrance; an inviting store window or lobby; and employees who make eye contact, smile and greet customers with a friendly welcome as they walk in the door all combine to kick the customer experience off on a positive note.
  • Are my employees empowered to give great service? If employees have to “get a manager” to make any exception to a rule, irate customers are likely to get even more annoyed. Set parameters, but within those guidelines, give your employees leeway to make their own decisions about how to satisfy a customer.
  • Are my employees educated about my product or service? These days, customers can instantly turn to the Internet on their smartphones to get a wealth of information about the products you sell—and the other companies that sell them. It’s crucial your employees know your wares thoroughly so they can answer questions, make suggestions and offer expert advice before customers turn to your competitors.
  • Do I listen as well as talk on social media? Social media is a great way to engage with customers, but make sure it’s not a one-way street. Don’t just share info about your business; also listen to what customers are saying about your business. If what they’re saying is negative or critical, or if a customer is asking for help, respond immediately and take steps to make changes.
  • Do I offer lots of customer service options? Customers today want choices in everything—even in how they communicate with your company. Offer as many options as possible for how you provide customer service—from in-person and by phone to email and live chat. If you have something for everyone, you’ll keep everyone happy. 

Work Your Biz Wednesday: Market on Social Media

Build a social media empire for your business in just one hour per day! Learn how with these 5 tips from Melinda Emerson, The Small Biz Lady.


Networking for People Who Hate Networking

I may appear regularly on radio and TV, but I’m not all that different from other people when it comes to networking.  The whole concept of establishing any relationship with total strangers and then converting them into treasured resources can be overwhelming.   Still, with a clear understanding of what networking is really all about, anyone — from the life of the party to the shyest wallflower — can develop a great business network.

Here are four tips that can even help those of us who hate networking develop the valuable business relationships they need.

Leverage Your Current Network

If you have family and friends, you already have a network.  But you probably don’t recognize that these people can help with your business issues.  If you need assistance solving a specific problem or finding new customers, talk to the people that you know. Remember that they have connections, too. A simple introduction is all that you need to grow your own network.

But don’t stop with your close contacts.  You probably interact with many people every day, and you know them well enough to ask for help.  One person that I know has been going to the same spa for years.  One time, she brought some business brochures and asked if she could place them on the reception counter next to other promotional items that they already had on display.  With their permission, she got some calls from people already primed to purchase her services while avoiding the pain of cold-calling.

Do Not Fear Networking Events

The thought of facing countless people that you don’t know may seem overwhelming, but a little advance planning can simplify the effort.  When you find an event that you believe may help you, start by contacting the organizer at least a few days before the meeting. That person can make introductions for you ahead of time through email or social networking.

On the day of the event, you may enter a room with hundreds of people, but you know which people to seek out. When you introduce yourself in person, you will instantly see a friendly look of recognition on their faces.   You can feel more comfortable conversing with new friends, rather than trying to break the ice with total strangers.

Leverage Social Media

Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have blurred the lines between real relationships and virtual connections. But these tools eliminate the need for face-to-face or phone contact as a preamble to establishing business contacts.  Set up one or more free accounts and start making connections.

If you pay regular attention to your social media accounts, you will get to know quite a bit about your new friends. Then, when you find someone with mutual interests and concerns, consider making your conversations more private to find out if you can help each other in your networking efforts.

Aim for Quality Over Quantity

????????????????????????????????????????Networking is not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It is better to find a few people with whom you can develop a mutually-beneficial relationship than to collect an impressive stack of business cards.  So, even if you are at a conference with thousands of attendees, find ways to do your networking in small chunks.

For example, everyone has to eat, so ask a few people sitting near you in a late-morning session to get together for lunch.  Instantly, you create a small group of people who share your interests without the embarrassment of trying to ask a single person to go out with you. You may or may not become lifelong friends with your new lunch buddies, but you will know that each business card has real meaning for you.

Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere between, you may have discovered your own tricks to increasing your list of valued business contacts. Please share them below.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to get More Likes on your Facebook Fan Page

Find out ways to boost your Facebook fan page engagement and build your brand online with the C-Q-H-L approach from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


3 Essential Practices to Managing Your Company’s Facebook Page

Almost everyone is on Facebook these days. The social networking site famously attracted its 1 billionth user in late 2012 and has added millions more since. By December 2013, a reported 1.19 billion people checked Facebook every day. With numbers like that, chances are good that your customers are also on the site.

So how should you, as a small business owner, manage your company’s Facebook page? Jason McDonald, director of JM Internet Group, a social media and SEO consulting company in Fremont, Calif., offers a few key pieces of advice.

Make it fun

First, don’t treat your Facebook page like your Twitter page. Twitter is a perfect medium to send out a dozen messages a day, many of them advertising your company via coupon codes, etc. Facebook is much different.

“Facebook is friends, family, fun. If you can connect to that persona, great,” says McDonald. This means posting status updates with photos, lighthearted comments about current events and engaging with customers. It also means avoiding self-promotional posts as much as possible. According to McDonald, companies should only highlight promotional messages (i.e. discounts) every 10th or 20th post.

It can be easy to make your Facebook page fun if you own a pizza restaurant (McDonald recommends posting pictures of kids at a little league party or the scene at your restaurant during Friday happy hour), but what your business isn’t so lively? What if you are the head of an engineering practice or CPA firm?

“You can still make boring topics fun,” says McDonald. “If you own an engineering company, put up a funny picture once a week and have a caption contest to engage your followers. The caption with the most likes gets a gift card or industry book.

“Or post blogs and news from other places that have to do with your industry. Or post something everyone can relate to like how Mondays can be a bit of a drag. You will get tons of comments from people commiserating.”

Most importantly, think from the perspective of your customer. Ask yourself why your customer is logging onto Facebook in the first place, McDonald recommends. Many of them are coming to be entertained; make your page fun and your number of followers will increase.

Make sure you control your page

While you may assign the task of Facebook posting to a lower level member of your team, make sure that you still know your account’s user name and password to avoid a potential disaster. “If you assign control of the page to someone else and that person quits, he or she may take the page with them,” says McDonald. “As a business owner, it is a security issue. Take inventory of what you control.”

Set up a corporate page, not a personal page

Facebook is pretty serious about verifying whom you are when creating a new account. “They will kill your page if you set up a personal profile instead of a business profile by mistake,” he says. “Personal profiles and business pages are different things. Make sure you are setting up the right one.” 

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10 Actions to Avoid in 2014

This is the time of year that a lot of articles are written about what to do to get ready for 2014. Instead, this is a guide to the 10 actions to strictly avoid for next year:

  1. Avoid changing your strategy too quickly. All small business owners want to take action, but many times they make too many actions. It is critical not to change target customers, product release dates and employee compensation plans too often. It produces organizational whiplash!
  2. Avoid canceling your employee health insurance. With the delays in the Affordable Care Act, you have another year to make the decision. Check your renewal rates as well ask your broker to use the Healthcare.gov website to check those additional options.
  3. Avoid bad mouthing your competition. While this may seem like a viable marketing strategy, it almost never is. Customers want to hear what is right about your solution, not how the other guy stinks. A business culture that takes “the high road” is always more sustainable.
  4. Avoid buying more phones without a plan. Stop adding to the telecommunications chaos for your company. Ensure that all your devices are connected through a central voice over IP systems (VoIP) to have one seamless system that never loses customers.
  5. Avoid posting on social media when getting angry. While this may feel good at the time, remember those posts take on a life of their own once they are online. Write it out if you have to, but then never press the send button.
  6. Avoid growing yourself broke. Contrary to popular wisdom, growing a company too fast can actually put you out of business. Ensure you have enough cash flow to support any expansion strategy. While bigger may feel better, it is not always more profitable.
  7. Avoid bragging about your company’s achievements. In a social media world, customers really do not like people that brag. A better strategy is to highlight your customers’ many achievements!
  8. Avoid using business funds for personal use. Even during difficult times, this is a red line that should never be crossed. Keep a strict separation between funds for business expenses and your own personal needs.
  9. Avoid extending credit to customers that don’t pay their bills. Cash flow is the critical life line for your business. As a result, extend credit as a privilege, not a right. Remember, customers that do not pay on time are not valuable customers,
  10. Avoid borrowing more money when sales are shrinking. Never borrow capital when revenue is going down since you are then using that cash to only cover losses. This is also the best time to stay away from borrowing with family and friends, since the chance of successfully paying them back is very low.

What do you vow to stay away from in 2014?

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15 Social Media Mistakes You Are Making

Every small business knows that they need to utilize social media as part of their marketing plan. But in the process, they are making a lot of mistakes. Here are the most common ones and what to do about them:

  1. You are only selling your “stuff”. You communicate only your product offers on social media. You are constantly asking people to buy instead of establishing a relationship with them first.
  2. You are talking at people, not with them. You are not having two way conversations with people, but only broadcasting your message. A good indication that this is happening is no one ever responds to what you post.
  3. You are talking to the wrong people. You have no strategy for your social media. You talk to anyone that will talk to you. This is because you may have outsourced it to any GenY-er you can find instead of someone with specific experience.
  4. You ask others to retweet or share your content, but never talk to them any other times. The only time you communicate with potential partners is to ask them to share your stuff. You should always ask how you can help them before asking for favor.
  5. You broadcast the same message across all the channels. You need to tailor your message for each specific social media channel. For example, the form of any marketing message needs to be different on Facebook vs. Twitter.
  6. You focus on numbers not quality. You are obsessed with the number of followers instead of the quality of their interaction with your company.
  7. Posting infrequently or irregularly. No one knows when you will show up on social media. You need to have a regular schedule to show dependability and consistency of your message.
  8. Not posting the same things multiple times during the day or week. Most social media posts have a short shelf life (Twitter -15 minutes, Facebook- 60 minutes). Everyone is not always on social media so things need to be posted multiple times.
  9. Not monitoring what people are saying about your company. Reputation is your biggest marketing weapon. Customers now place more trust in online reviews than advertisements. You need to know what everyone is saying about you!
  10. You have no company social media policy.  Can employees check their social media accounts at work? Can they post on behalf of the company? There is no right or wrong answer, but there should be a specific policy.
  11. A photo that does not reflect your brand. Many companies just use there logo, but what could be a better representation of your brand?
  12. You delete negative comments. On social media, this is a big mistake. Instead, respond with empathy and provide a solution.
  13. You send automated direct messages to followers. Another big mistake since most social media users consider this spam. Only send direct messages that are customized for the person you are connecting with.
  14. Using too many hashtags. This is a good tool to become part of a conversation, but not every tweet or Facebook post needs to have a #newhashtag on it! #OMGsocialmediamistakes
  15. Not leaving enough space for other people to retweet you. Make it easy for people to retweet you by leaving room for their Twitter handle and the letters RT. Don’t use the full 140 characters in your original tweet since this will force them to delete some of your message.

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SMB Marketing: In House vs. Outsourcing

As a small business owner, do you run your own marketing and social media efforts or do you outsource them to a third party company? Constant Contact has taken the time to analyze small business owners' marketing goals against the time restraints and cost concerns that they face. We break it down for you in our latest infographic:

Social Media Infographic


3 Creative Ways to Promote Your Business Around the Holidays

The holiday season is swinging into high gear with Halloween, Thanksgiving and December celebrations right around the corner. This can be an excellent time to empty out aging inventory, introduce new customers to your brand and pad your bottom line as you move into 2014.

Here, Evan Lamont, owner of TLG Marketing, an Internet marketing agency based in Long Beach, Calif., offers a few business promotion tips for this time of year.

Mobilize a mascot

Get creative with your online messaging by creating a mascot for your business, suggests Lamont. Establish Twitter and Facebook accounts for your mascot and send out promotions under those accounts. Your customers will love it.

“We worked with a local chiropractic firm and created a new personality for them, a skeleton,” says Lamont. “Many owners don’t want to be the direct face of their business. The skeleton is an example of how a business can answer client questions and promote the business in a fun way.”

Own a bakery? Establish a cupcake with a personal name as your mascot and Tweet as that persona. Own a pet shop? Establish a dog bone with a personal name and send out Facebook posts as that mascot.

“You want to keep two different social media presences,” says Lamont. “One that is generic for your business where you offer pertinent advice and industry news and one that is your mascot’s account where you offer creative deals, special offers and communicate with your community in a less threatening way. Mascots can be great for beefing up a brand.”

Connect with the local media

Regional newspapers and television stations are always looking for feel-good stories around the holidays. Tap into that need by creating an event that will help the public and then distributing a press release about it, Lamont recommends. Just make sure to notify the press well in advance of the event date (at least 2 weeks prior). 

If you own a CPA firm, schedule a seminar on how to save money over the holidays. If you own a bike shop, schedule an event where you teach parents and children about bike safety. Then reach out to media outlets. Chances are good that they will show an interest as long as your event serves the community.

Schedule a ‘give back’ sale

The holiday season is a great time to give back to those less fortunate. Tap into this opportunity by donating a percentage of your sales to a local charity on a specific day and ask everyone (including television cameras) to stop by, offers Lamont. Giving back will only increase public feelings of goodwill toward your business and customers will remember your philanthropic efforts long after the holidays have come and gone.

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