Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Bring Back the Personal Touch in Your Emails

I wanted to share an example of great customer service and follow-up that happened to me this weekend. It reminds me of how much the personal touch goes a long way. You can't survive with "template" emails anymore. Email campaigns are great but if you forget the personal touch in your correspondence, you are doomed.

I am reading "The Wealthy Freelancer" (every freelancer should read this book). I can't put this book down and wanted to let the authors know how much I loved it. I also tweeted about how much I enjoyed it as well. I received a personal message on my Twitter from one of the authors, and then received a personal email message from the other co-author.

My first thought was: "Wow, these authors really care about their readers and our thoughts!" Not only do they care, but they really appreciated my feedback and took the time out of their busy schedules to respond personally to me. They could have easily sent one of those annoying responder emails: "Sorry, we have too many questions and we might not be able to answer your question personally." That's usually when I opt-out of newsletters or stop subscribing to the website. It's a huge turn off and it makes me wonder if they really care about their customers and clients.

It's also nice to know that Pete Savage and Ed Gandia (the authors who personally responded to me) practice what they preach in their book. Instead of paying lip service, they walk the walk and talk the talk. They really want fellow freelancers to succeed and are REALLY there (beyond the scope of the book) to provide encouragement and support. It made me feel like someone was finally taking us freelancers seriously and that my opinion DOES count!

So what can you learn from this example and how can you apply it to your own business? The personal touch goes a LONG WAY - even if it's just a quick "we haven't touched based in awhile, how are you doing?" email to let clients know you are thinking of them. Instead of blasting out template emails when people send you positive feedback on your website or blog, take a few extra minutes to send a personal email. In this crazy, busy world people still want to feel appreciated and "heard."

You can also take it beyond personal emails with your customers and clients:

  • Send hand-written thank you notes and cards for referrals, etc.
  • Follow-up with emails that include articles or helpful tips
  • Pick up the phone and call them - remind them that you are there for them and ready to help them!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why You Shouldn't Use Social Media

What?!!! I know what you're thinking - everyone uses social media these days so why are you telling me NOT to use social media? Before you sign up for social media accounts, stop and think if social media is the right marketing channel to use. Not everyone or every business should use social media.

There are a few exceptions to the rule when NOT to use social media - do you fall under these categories?

  • If you have a a few high-end customers or clients (who spend in the millions) you definitely don't want to go the social media route to stay connected with them. Face-to-face, personalized visits and phone calls would work better.
  • If your company is unionized and there is constant on-the-job turmoil with labor disputes, steer clear of social media to spread the word unless you want a PR nightmare. Not a good idea!
  • Don't use social media just because everyone is using it. You need to have a focused marketing objective and needs to fit into your company's branding and messaging.

Before you start to tweet or sign up for Facebook, evaluate your social media needs. Do you really need social media and is it going to help you in your specific business/industry? Not everyone needs to use it and it may be a hindrance to your marketing strategy in the long run.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Lose Customers in 3 Easy Steps

If you haven't checked out LinkedIn, I highly suggest signing up for this savvy business social networking site. A fellow member wrote a post today about bad manners in business. He's also a copywriter and we shared similar nightmare stories about how businesses treat freelancers and contractor. The gist of his post: what happened to GOOD manners and common courtesy in the business world?

If these companies treat contractors that poorly, what does that say about how they treat their customers and clients?

Don't fall into that bad customer service bracket. Word-of-mouth travels fast and when I have a bad experience with a company - as both a contractor and customer/client - I let everyone know! I want to save others the hassle of being treated poorly.

Avoid these biggest mistakes when dealing with your clients, customers and vendors. Do not turn into a tactless, rude business professional!

1. Never follow-up with anyone - In this tenuous economic climate, this is the #1 way to lose your existing clients and customers. This rule also applies to your colleagues. If you want to make a lasting impression (a bad impression), don't ever call anyone back and let your emails pile up for days.

2. Talk and never listen - If you are always talking, how can you ever listen to your customers' and clients' feedback and what they want? This also applies to your employees. This is the worst possible thing you could do - to always talk and NEVER listen. How can you improve your services and products if you never listen to what your customers and markets really want?

3. Be rude and condescending - This sounds like a no-brainer but this is a sure fire way to anger customers and clients, and lose them permanently. Even if customers are upset and angry, handle their issues with courtesy, respect and tact. If you take on a condescending, rude attitude with them, you can kiss them good-bye.

Manners go a long way these days: "Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude." Think before you speak and act - remember that you want to leave a lasting GOOD impression.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easy Spring Networking Tips: How to Network Without Really Trying

You probably don't even realize it but about an hour ago you just had a great networking opportunity but missed it. You were standing in line at Starbucks chatting with another business professional about the great spring weather.

It's time to stop hiding behind your laptop and take advantage of those "every day" networking opportunities that are passing you by at this very moment. As a freelancer, I get bored going to the same "15 second" elevator-speech type networking groups. These are great spots that you can network without really trying and have fun at the same time!

It's time to get out there and enjoy the warmer, spring temperatures but it's also a great time to take advantage of networking venues that may have completely slipped your mind:

Outdoor cafes and coffeehouses - I can't begin to tell you how many leads I've generated just by sitting at coffeehouses and cafes. Business professionals flock to these spots for meetings and appointments - just to get out of the office! Strike up a conversation while you're line and don't forget to bring your business cards. You never know who'll you'll meet!

Dog parks - Yes, dog parks! What better way to meet people than to talk about your mutual love of animals. If you are a city dweller, you probably will find the same people frequenting the local dog park - a great chance to get to know your neighbors and also to chat business as Fido and FiFi run around together!

Your kids' after-school events and sports activities - Another fun way to get to know other parents and maybe chat business in between baseball innings. You never know who they know, or what leads you have for them.

Exercise classes and the gym - This is another great hot spot to connect with people. You both share a love of exercise, so why not get to know the people in your yoga class or find a work out buddy? Not only will you have fun meeting people but you might make some lucrative business connections as well!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Mobile Generation: How Text Speak Dumbs Down Writing

A friend recently asked my advice about the legitimacy of a blog writing opportunity. My first red flag was his correspondence between the CEO of a consulting company. The CEO wrote the entire email in “text speak.” It’s one thing if you text your spouse or friend, but it’s another to send an unprofessional email riddled with “How r u 2 day?”

As the i-Phone and i-Pad takes the mobile world by storm, where does that leave the English language and written communication? Do we adapt to this hip, Emo-esque code language that leaves us scratching our heads?

The “text speak” emails from this business professional made me wonder about the future of marketing communications. Will I be forced as a copywriter to "dumb" down my writing? Mobile technology takes social media to a new level, so as a marketing professional I'm not knocking it's efficiency.

My question to the gurus of mobile technology: Will the English language, as we know it,eventually become lost in a cyber sea of LOLs and OMGs? As mobile communication becomes faster, bolder and smarter, what about the written word? I see the negative impact on mobile technology with younger kids who now communicate in this "text" speak and have lost all sense of proper grammar - this is frightening.

I'm in favor of technology, especially mobile technology - it definitely makes my life and business easier. However, where do we draw the line with "text speak" and how it impacts language and communication? What will the cost be down the road for future generations?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Professional Social Media Has Turned Into a Hate-Fest

I usually don't put a negative spin to my blog, but an incident recently occurred on one of my professional social networking sites that prompted this post.

A fellow member in one of my social networking groups has literally received hate mail telling her to shut up. There is no reason to act in such a rude and unprofessional manner, especially on a professional networking site.  This particular contributer is an established copywriter who adds great, helpful posts which I find very useful as a professional copywriter. If you don't want to read a post on a social networking site, it's very simple - IGNORE it and move on to a different topic or forum. 

She's not feeling the love on there, which prompted me to delve into what's really going on behind the social media scene. What's happened? Why have professional social media sites turned  into a negative hate-fest? Social media is supposed to be filled with hot industry leaders and seasoned business professionals. Did they leave their manners at the cyber door?There are social media rules to follow, but I think a few people missed that memo. 

I dug around and researched people's comments, specifically on my own industry sites (copywriting and marketing).

Here are the top 5 reasons I've concluded that social media has turned into a hate-fest amongst the business set:

1. People don't have any idea how to conduct themselves on a professional networking site. Their Net-iquette goes out the window and they feel like "anything" goes since they are protected behind a computer screen. 

2. There is a lot of competition and jealousy out there amongst professionals based on the economy. I understand it's a competitive world at the moment, but what happened to supporting fellow professionals? It's a bad idea to create a negative buzz, even amongst your peers. 

3. People just have way too much time on their hands. If these industry leaders are as busy as they say they are, why are they spewing out negativity and criticism on these professional sites? It makes me wonder JUST how busy they really are. Why aren't they aren't putting that negative energy towards something more positive i.e. growing their business? 

4. People take on a holier-than-thou, snobby persona on professional social media sites. Many come across as "since I have way more experience than you peons, you need to shut up and listen to me!" That's the biggest no-no in social networking and the fastest way to turn people off and opt-out of forums and groups. 

5. People are in their own little bubble worlds and think they are untouchable. I like to refer back to that old saying: "Think before you speak." In this case, think before you write. You never know who could stumble upon your negative words. If you want to ruin your reputation, that's the fastest way to do it. If you own a business or act as the company representative, be careful what you say on professional social networking sites. Your bad attitude and snobby demeanor on these sites might just get you booted out the door, or lose clients. You never know who knows who on these sites. A good rule of thumb is to think before you post and choose your words carefully.

Not ALL professional social networking sites are filled with mean, spite-filled people. I've found many supportive and talented people on these sites. In order to protect your reputation, if you feel like you are being unfairly attacked or harassed on any social media site, please contact the site administrator immediately.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Tweeters Turn into Social Media Slackers

So you've Tweeted. You don't even know what the fuss was about - you weren't THAT impressed. That initial tweet was two months ago.  You have now lost interest in that new-fangled social media platform called Twitter.

I know what you're going to say. I can just see the excuses forming on your lips:

  •  Twitter is too confusing!
  • How do I even set up my profile?
  • I don't have enough time to sip my coffee, let alone tweet!
  • I broke my finger and couldn't type...and the list goes on and on.

So why do tweeters turn into social media slackers, and how can you correct your slacker ways?

What's the biggest excuse? You just don't have the time, or that's what SoMe (social media) slackers report. 

IF you integrated social media strategies into your overall marketing plan, then you wouldn't find tweeting a waste of time. 

The REAL reason people stop tweeting is many of you find Twitter intimidating. Then you get frustrated and give up - not to mention, you don't take the time to learn HOW Twitter can benefit you. 

It's time to get back on the Twitter saddle and take a new approach to social media - no more SoMe slacking allowed. 

1. You only have to write 1 sentence (aka tweet) per day.  How difficult can that be? Wow them with your tweets - no one is interested in the sushi you had for dinner last night. 

2. Use your tweets to position yourself as an expert in your field and link back to your website, interesting blog posts or articles posted on other sites. Don't use bland language though: "Check out my article" isn't exciting!

3. Re-tweeting is perfectly acceptable - if you like Sally Smith's article about mutual funds, then by all means TWEET it (IF and ONLY IF it pertains to your marketing strategy and fellow followers would enjoy!)

4. Check out what your competitors are tweeting and one-up them. Don't be a copycat tweeter. No one likes a copycat - especially in social media. Be unique but don't be corny either.

5. The sacred rule of net-iquette (and I can't emphasize this enough!): if you  wouldn't want your mom to read your tweets then you should NOT post it.  Always remember to keep your tweets professional and G-rated. You'd be surprised what you can find out about people just by their tweets alone.  Who wants their reputation damaged as a result of one little tweet? 

So log into your Twitter account and stop being a social media slacker. It doesn't take that much time - look into automated apps that allow you to update all your social media accounts at once (i.e. Tweetdeck, etc.) You can also update Twitter when you're on-the-go - thanks to mobile apps.  Thank you, iPhone!

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies