Thursday, March 31, 2011

Your Personal Brand - What's Your Story?

We all have a story to share. We check off credentials on our resumes, social media bios and give our elevator speeches at meetings. As a business owner, what's your personal brand and even more importantly, what's your story? Personal branding is basically the way you (the person) market yourself to the world. It's also been called "self-packaging." 

Look at the personal brand of Tiger Woods. He's one of the best examples of how a personal brand can go down the tubes quickly (especially when that personal brand is tainted in the public eye). I can't think of one person on this planet who doesn't know the name Tiger Woods. Tiger equals pro billion dollar successful golfer which then turned into Tiger Woods, cheating husband and target of all celebrity gossip columnists. Wheras the tabloid gossip around Tiger's infidelities has simmered down, his brand definitely took a hit (especially on his wallet).

Your personal brand is what and how other people perceive you - and it's unavoidable! The labels and perceptions (whether true or false) people associate with you become tied to your personal brand. That's why it's important to tell your story before someone else tells their "version" of your story.

What Does Your External Brand Look Like to the World?

Your external brand is the "image" you project to the world - whether online or offline. 

Let's say Mrs. Mary Jones is a stay-at-home mom who raised kids for 20 years and created her company and products/services to help other busy moms make their lives easier. This "image" is portrayed on her website via her bio, website copy/design, etc.

Then we have another website - Ms. Jane Smith Off the Street who also sells similar products. What's Jane Smith's story? What makes HER an expert when it comes to child-related products? Jane Smith doesn't have a bio on her website and I don't know anything about her. Given that information, I'm buying my products from Mrs. Mary Jones based on the story I read and based on her experiences and expertise as a mom. you have a story? Are you sharing it with your customers and clients? How does everyone else "see" you and your company? What are their perceptions? Good? Bad? Indifferent?







Monday, March 28, 2011

Word of Mouth Marketing Pays Big For Small Businesses

Word of mouth marketing...what would we do without it? Especially in these tough times as small businesses close their doors, word of mouth marketing pays big for business owners who compete daily for new customers just to stay ahead.

I live in a small town in the foothills of northern California. We have a few "box" stores here, but I try to support my local businesses as much as I can. Word of mouth marketing goes a long way in a small town and it pays (especially if I am your customer!)

My laptop took a nose dive last weekend, and I ended up buying a new laptop with upgraded 2011 technology. I could have easily bought the laptop online or at a box store, but based on 'word of mouth' from my mom (she bought the same laptop from a local computer store) I took my laptop into their store for a repair. First, they didn't charge me an arm and a leg just to look at my computer, and they figured out it was a failing hard drive. There was no hard pressure sales to upgrade my laptop (another plus in their favor), but they were running a sale this month on the exact laptop I wanted to purchase - great timing!

This local store gets an A plus - they understand the importance of word of mouth marketing and they practice what they preach. And my mom's "word" goes a long way since she used to teach college computer classes and has been around computers for a long time. As a result of my mom telling me about her great customer experience with this local computer store, I turned into a new customer who bought a laptop from them. That sale was based strictly on word of mouth marketing. Sure, I know about the store since I've had other family members take their computers there, but my purchasing decision was based on the positive experience my mom had with the store.

I'm not putting down box stores, but I've had less than favorable experiences with the larger corporate chains. If anything, these bigger chains could take a page or two from smaller businesses who know how to effectively market via word of mouth.

As a business owner myself, I am really busy so It's nice to know I can go to a local store if I run into any problems with my laptop. Not to mention, they threw in a discount card for their store.

As a result of my positive experience, I plan to write favorable online reviews about this local computer store to help spread the word. As important as social media marketing is for your small business, don't forget about your customers and word of mouth marketing. Look at your reviews online and remember to thank your customers for favorable reviews (and thank them in person too!) Word of mouth marketing could pay big for you in the near future.

I've been fortunate to receive referrals from past clients and landed new clients in the process. 

What has been your experiences with word of mouth marketing? Did word of mouth help land you new customers? Sales?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy 5 Year Anniversary, Twitter!

The world's most popular global social microblogging turned five years old today. Happy Anniversary, Twitter. Were you onboard Twitter (then Twttr) in 2006? It's amazing to think that Twitter is five years old - time flies when you're tweeting away! I'm not sure I remember my first tweet since it's been a few years since I joined Twitter. Like everyone else, I was dumbfounded how it all worked, until I got my feet weet and learned just how fun and useful it was for social networking (and haven't stopped tweeting ever since).

According to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, his first tweet "inviting coworkers" was the first tweet written by a "human." Now six years later we are in the midst of Twitter mania. Based on the stats found on Twitter's blog, they handle an average of 140 million tweets per day. It's mind-boggling to think that when I graduated from college in the mid-90s, that the Internet and email were a new phenomenon. And now social media has literally taken the world by storm.

Remember that your business culture might not be suitable for Twitter - why it's important to track and analyze your tweets to verify that Twitter is an effective social media marketing tool. It doesn't make sense to tweet your time away if you don't see a ROI on  your Twitter marketing.

Do you remember your first tweet, or have you avoided Twitter mania altogether? Don't let Charlie Sheen and his posse scare you away from the benefits of Twitter. If you haven't jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, today might be a good day to start.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Reactive Marketing Could Shut Down Your Business

I chatted this morning with a colleague who works with local small businesses. We compared "marketing" notes and discussed how small business owners are missing the boat with their marketing strategies. They don't worry about their marketing until AFTER they are forced to reduce store hours or cancel promotional events. Reactive marketing is not the way to go - especially in this economy. When I hear businesses, especially small Mom and Pop stores, complain that they don't have time to market it makes me shake my head. With the powerful and easy social media marketing tools right at their fingertips, small business owners don't have any excuses NOT to be proactive marketers.

I'm a huge fan of a local pizza parlor in my small town (a shout out to Old Town Pizza in Auburn, Calif.) They are on the ball with their email marketing. I received their St. Patrick's Day email last night that listed their specials which included discounted prices on pizza with pesto sauce - now that is clever (not to mention green beer). The email was simple with a festive St. Patrick's Day theme and caught my eye right away. They are a great example of how small businesses are staying on top of proactive marketing.

There are times when reactive marketing is beneficial and necessary. When you spot negative comments from disgruntled customers on your Facebook, then you definitely need to react and take care of the problem immediately.

How can you take the bull by the horns and be a proactive marketer?

Understand Your Markets

Conduct market research and customer surveys. What do your customers and clients want and need? Don't wait until they have blasted your company social media accounts with nasty-grams to figure out they are unhappy campers. Be aware of what's going on in your industry - what and who influences key decision makers and leaders? What does the projected forecast and trends look like this year? In five or ten years? Stay on your toes.

Be Open to Networking Opportunities

When you meet someone online or offline, think about the potential marketing opportunity with the person you just met. I don't recommend spamming them or hitting them up to buy your product, but take the time to get to know them - do you share common interests? Maybe the woman standing next to you in line is the CEO of ABC Company and her daughter attends your son's school. You never know who will cross your path, so don't shut out networking opportunities when you're outside the office.

Don't Use Lack of Time & Money As Excuses NOT To Market

I understand how difficult it is to schedule time to market your business, but it's crucial. Create a solid online marketing plan and stick to it. Schedule time for your social media or hire someone to do it for you. Don't use the excuse that you don't have enough time or money to put into your marketing. You don't have to break the bank with your marketing either. There are many cost-effective, free tools available to help save time with your social media marketing. Here are a few time-saving automation tools to get you started: 

Don't wait until you have to hang a "Going Out of Business" sign on your door. Schedule the time today to be a proactive and NOT a reactive marketer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Social Media Does Social Good For Japan

Like everyone else across the world right now, my heart goes out to the people of Japan. As I watched the news coverage on TV, I noticed how many times they referred back to social media.

Google has also jumped on board and has created a Person Finder for those who are looking for loved ones or for those who have information about someone. 

Tweets have been translated from Japanese to English, and people have left messages on Facebook and Twitter to let loved ones know they're safe. Check out #prayforjapan on Twitter and read the inspirational tweets of courage and hope from people across the world.

Despite the devastating aftermath, there is a glimmer of hope thanks to social media's relief and fundraising efforts. Even with power outages and no access to phones, social media has connected people with their loved ones and has been a saving grace in this nightmarish disaster that has left thousands homeless and grieving. 

If you have questioned the power of social media up until now, you can't question its impact any longer. Look at its vital philanthropic role with the Japan disaster and how it's helping millions of people across the world. Thanks to social media maybe a mother, child or grandparent will sleep easier tonight knowing their loved one is safe. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people who have lost family and friends in Japan, and for those still searching for loved ones. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why GPS Locations in Twitter Profiles Are a Bad Idea

When I first noticed strange code in my followers' Twitter profiles, I was thrown off and wasn't sure if this was a new techie trend and I somehow missed the memo. After digging around further, I learned they were GPS coordinates (where my followers are geographically located).  It left me scratching my head. It seems like people jumped on the bandwagon, and thought this was a good idea - hey, let's make it easier for people to find us by our GPS coordinates. 

But it's not a good idea for your social media marketing. Before you add your GPS coordinates to your Twitter profile (or any social media profile), consider the following: 

1. It makes you difficult to find on Twitter. When the average person searches for information on Twitter, they don't type in "social media consulting companies, +40.689060 -74.044636." They type in the actual name of the city. The coordinates mess up your SEO and the point behind social media is that you want people to find you and connect with you easily. It also leaves people wondering - where the heck are you located? And no one has time to search for GPS coordinates. 

2.Twitter profiles look strange, and doesn't make you visually appealing or approachable. I would rather connect with John Smith from New York, New York than John Smith with a long string of odd-looking numbers attached to his profile. It doesn't look "friendly." 

3. You could accidentally include the wrong GPS coordinates. It could happen. Instead of Mary Jones from Los Angeles, California you become Mary Smith located in Denmark. Whoops! 

You may think it looks cool and savvy to include GPS coordinates in your Twitter profile, but for social media purposes it's not a good idea. Tell people what you do and how you can help them in your Twitter bio. GPS coordinates will just leave people feeling confused and they might not follow you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Spring Clean Your Social Media in 5 Easy Steps

Spring is right around the corner. I know for some of you it still feels months away based on the weather. I spent my weekend spring cleaning my desk and work area. It felt good to purge and organize, and good timing since taxes are right around the corner. 

As you say good bye to winter and prepare for brighter, warmer temps ahead, it's time to "spring clean" your social media. Check out these 5 easy social media maintenance tips. 

1. Update your social media profiles. Have you switched jobs? Just launched a new website? Make sure your profile information is correct and up-to-date. For more tips on how to jazz up your LinkedIn profile, check out Victoria Ipri's LinkedIn for the Clueless. 

2. Delete old social media and discussion forum accounts. Get rid of accounts that you never use. You don't have to participate in everything out there. If you are pressed for time, stick to the top three:  LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Evaluate your LinkedIn groups and your participation. If you aren't active in all groups, consider opting out of them and stick with your most active groups. 

4. Add social media time to your daily calendar. If you have slacked off on on your blog and social media updates over the winter months, schedule time in your calendar for your social media marketing. Even if you only have 10 minutes to spare per day, it's better than not doing anything with your social media. Kick off spring on the right foot by making a commitment to your social media marketing. 

5. Evaluate your social media analytics and look at your ROI and traffic. Is Twitter a dud and you havent't a retweet in months? Maybe Twitter isn't the right platform for your company. Do you receive positive feedback on LinkedIn and more people read your business blog as a result? Think about putting more effort into the social media channels that bring you higher traffic and conversion rates.  Check out this handy list of social media monitoring tools. 

Along with cleaning out your desk and packing away the winter sweaters, remember to dust off your social media - and dive into a fresh, clean approach to your social media in the upcoming months. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Observation is Your Best Market Research Tool

How many times have you heard the phrase "the powers of observation?" But what exactly does that mean in relationship to market research? We sometimes observe our clients, customers and even our colleagues with an egocentric focus. The ego steers us away from those gut, intuitive feelings that help us really understand and see people for who they are. 

What does all this psychobabble mean? It means it's time to pay attention to your target markets, customers and colleagues. Read between the lines and don't rely on literal translation - let your logical mind take a breather. 

Dig deeper and really listen, focus and observe people. You can use all the technical marketing metrics and tools in the world, but if you don't see human beings for who they are and how they act, think, behave, etc. - you won't truly understand people on a real and authentic level. 

For example, I just joined a new women's group on LinkedIn. I have "met" and interacted with many of these women on other LinkedIn groups. I assumed my powers of observation were right on the money, but I was wrong. It wasn't until I really interacted and dug deeper and shared honest, vulnerable stories, that I had a huge awakening. I realized I didn't really know anything abou them - yes, I knew the superficial facts here and there but that was it.

Their personal experiences shape who they are, not just as professional women, but as human beings. When we interact on the Internet,  it's easy to forget that there is more to people than just a faceless name, and we sometimes take that for granted. Even when we interact face-to-face, our technology distracts us from "really" observing people. 

How can we fine tune our powers of observation as business professionals? 

1. Check out discussion forums, boards, groups, blogs, etc. When you read discussions, pay attention and observe before you comment. When you comment, don't just share your opinion but ask probing questions (in a polite, respectful manner). Dig deeper and look into the "core" of the people interacting on the forum - not just the surface. It's easy to think we know a lot about people and take people at face value. We are all on different paths so don't jump to conclusions and make false assumptions. It can be difficult to get to know someone on the Internet and people hide behind anonymity, but it is possible to shed the cyber layers. 

2. Listen to people and pay attention to your gut instinct. When your customers talk to you, really listen to them. Don't talk at them. Ask their opinions and feedback. Your gut instinct points you in the right direction. How does it feel when you talk to customers? What's not being said? Can your hear frustration in their voice even though they don't come right out and say they are frustrated? 

3. Don't limit yourself to just business books and seminars. Pick up a philosophy, sociology or personal development book. Try out a yoga class. I'm not saying that business books or webinars aren't effective (I read and attend plenty of them). A different perspective can help us view people and our world in new, creative ways - which helps hone our powers of observation.

How are your powers of observation? Do they need a tune-up? 



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

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies