Ticked Off on Twitter: How Not to Thank Me for Following

Posted on August 14, 2011. Filed under: Business Strategy, Communications, Content, Human Business, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Small Business, Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Get 4100 Twitter Followers

Need I Say More?

People use Twitter in different ways. Some go for volume. Get as many followers as possible. This is often part of a monetization strategy and utilizes some automation program or builds from following others’ lists, which is fine.

I’ve made the decision to build a smaller community on Twitter based on mutual interests and the ability to gain and add value. My community is focused on two groups: other marketing professionals and small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs), the kind of companies that my business serves.

Perusing my Twitter stream gives me access to information about my profession and my target audiences that I might not ever connect with otherwise. It’s a great listening station. It also affords me the opportunity to give back information and experience-based knowledge, as well as to engage with people who may be able to refer business or to hire me directly. The way I approach Twitter and other social media is in exactly that order.

Before I follow someone, I check their profile to be sure they meet the above criteria. When someone follows me, I also check their profile before following back. Before I thank someone for following me, I check their profile so that I can reference something specific about them that I’m interested in knowing more about or that we share in common.

That’s one of the benefits of cultivating a smaller group of followers. You can get to know them over time. I recognize almost everyone in my Twitter stream and have a good idea of the kinds of information they’ll share or be interested in.

So what ticks me off? Automated ‘Thanks for following’ direct messages. They’re cold and impersonal to me. I feel this way: Why bother thanking me at all? You don’t really care about who I am or what I can share with you. You just connected with me based on some keyword to build your followers. It’s about you…not us. If you are going to thank me, at least make it for the right thing.

I especially hate it when the auto DM contains a further ask: Thanks for following. Now connect with us on Facebook, too, or visit our website, or check out how we can make you a million online with our great software. It reminds me of how annoyed I used to get when I’d drive two hours to visit my dear, departed grandmother and the first thing she’d say to me when I got out of the car wasn’t, “Hello, darling,” but, “So when are you going to come again?”

Call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of community and getting acquainted first. Let me know why you’re looking forward to following each other and I can better deliver on my end of the bargain!

How do you use Twitter? How do you feel about auto DMs that say thank you and sell you more at the same time?

Image ‘Get 4100 Twitter Followers for $12.95″ is from redplasticmonkey under Creative Commons license.

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Smaller Companies: Keep Marketing Through Adversity

Posted on August 11, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Communications, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Small Business, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

 

Keep Your Marketing Engines Running

Keep Your Marketing Engines Running!

 

Every time we hit a moment when the stock market crashes – or worse, fluctuates wildly – it’s predictable that smaller businesses will instantly turn off their marketing engines.

This is just as short sighted as selling off stocks the day of the crash and similarly forfeits the upside. The smartest investors and financial advisors, like my networking partner Pat Morrow, who runs a private wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, are exploring the current landscape for opportunities for their clients. And they’re finding them, too.

On the marketing side, I’m similarly engaged. In this environment, it makes sense that if our competitors panic and stop promoting their businesses, we stand to pick up market share.

The reason that I like Inbound Marketing is that it’s possible to create great efficiencies. Does it take time and money resources? Of course. But if cash flow becomes a problem, or if business slows down a bit, it gives you time to take on some of the marketing tasks that you might otherwise outsource. Pay only for what you can’t do yourself.

Even though I sell marketing services to businesses like yours, I can empathize with you. I’m in the same small business boat. Limited time. Limited resources. But today I took some time to build an email marketing campaign to my opt-in list giving them some reasons to consider Inbound Marketing and my services in an uncertain economy.

My Hubspot content management system allowed me to do this without any assistance. As far as I’m concerned it was a cost effective use of my time. When I got back from some meetings late this afternoon, I sat down and wrote this blog post, which will bring traffic to my site and help me engage with my audiences.

I have no intention of cutting back my marketing efforts. I’m happy to invest  to get my company in front of opportunities that will help me build through these uncertain economic times. And I don’t mind putting in some sweat equity.

What can you contribute to your own marketing efforts? Farm out less. But don’t stop marketing.

Image by Nathan E Photography Under Creative Commons License

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How to Move Clients from Old Marketing to New: Synthesize!

Posted on August 8, 2011. Filed under: Business Strategy, Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Synthesize old and new marketing.

Jose James Synthesizes the Old and The New Jazz

I read a recent study revealing that only a small percentage of small businesses are using social media and other online tools for their marketing. Of those who have used or are using online marketing, even a smaller fraction considers the new tools essential.

These statistics support what I’ve been recognizing anecdotally as I speak with small businesses about inbound marketing and new online marketing tools. There’s indeed a resistance to adopting these new methods, even though there’s plenty of evidence that online is where potential buyers are already looking for products and services these days.

I’ve been chalking up this phenomenon of reticence to a need for more education. And I still believe this is true. But a personal experience I had this past weekend triggered another thought: The way to encourage adoption of the new is to synthesize it with familiar experiences and expectations.

Here’s what happened. Jeff and I attended the annual jazz festival at Caramoor, a marvelous summer music venue outside New York City.

The first artist on the bill was a wonderful guitarist from Cuba, Juan Carlos Formell, with a group called Johnny’s Dream Club. All of the tunes were new to us and sung in Spanish. They also shared an enervating sameness of tone and tempo, so although the music was beautifully played, at the end of the set we were happy to move on.

The next set brought James Farm to the stage, a group of fine young players led by the saxophonist Joshua Redman, son of the legendary Dewey Redman and now becoming a legend in his own right. The program notes asked that we, “keep an open mind,” for an hour of original music composed by members of the band. That meant another hour of nothing familiar and in a musical style that had Jeff, a musician and drummer, complaining that he couldn’t even tap his toes or bop his head to it.

We were expecting more of the same in set three, to be performed by a vocalist Jose James, who apparently has been around for awhile, but who neither of us had heard before. The program notes cited his influences, which included Prince, hip-hop, electronica, spoken word jazz and avant garde poetry in addition to jazz standards.

I can’t wait to hear Jose James again and will go to some trouble to seek him out. First of all, he has a marvelous baritone voice, reminiscent of the late Johnny Hartman who recorded an iconic album with the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. In fact, Jose James is reviving that collaboration on a tour with former Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner.

That said, the set was anything but a re-churn of the past. James synthesized all of his contemporary influences with historic expectations of a swinging jazz set to create one of the freshest hours of music I’ve heard in a long time. It was fun to hear street rhythms applied to standards.

His love of spoken word makes him an innovative scat singer qualified to grab the baton from none other than my all time favorite jazz singer, Mark Murphy, who is almost 80 now and whose artistry I’ve shared on this blog – beginning with the second post back in 2009 where you can hear him. The set included covers of well-known R&B tunes, which helped carry us along into less charted waters – an original or two with hip-hop riffs.

During the set, the familiar and the new brilliantly synthesized into something so appealing and energizing that we wanted to embrace it. As I approach existing clients and new prospects about the benefits of applying new marketing approaches to meet their business goals, you can bet that I’ll be referencing marketing basics that still provide a solid foundation for what’s now and what comes next.

How are you synthesizing past and present techniques to motivate wider acceptance of today’s marketing tools?

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Competition and Other Annoying Business Realities

Posted on August 4, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Business Strategy, Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, News, Online Marketing, Small Business | Tags: , , , , |

Business Competition

We can be our own competitive edge!!

The Dow fell more than 500 points today. Bad news was exuding from every media outlet. I had an opportunity to get some perspective on it in my weekly networking group meeting from members who are highly sophisticated financial experts.

Then I came home, shared some conversation with my neighbor on her garden swing, pulled a bunch of weeds that have been bothering me while thinkingabout what my blog topic would be for today. Relaxing and getting still allowed me to realize what was concerning me – and probably you, too.

When markets go crazy and economies are shaky and there’s less business to go around, we can’t help but think about how we’ll compete for what business there is. This has been on my mind for some time and brought to the forefront by today’s events.

Bottom line, I’ve decided not to worry about who else is competing for a piece of the online/inbound marketing pie. Instead, I’m working on my own story. Thinking harder about what I bring to the table that will have value for my clients and that I can speak powerfully about to prospects. I’m thinking about my strengths – what I really do better than anyone I’ve encountered.

Then I’m evaluating my lighter abilities — what I fully understand but need partners to execute well.

And I’m working on my messaging so that I can communicate clearly and effectively. That includes listening and testing… talking to as many people as I can find who are willing to offer feedback as I hone my messages.

I’m asking myself:

  • Are my offerings aligned with the needs of my client/prospect?
  • Is my language completely understandable, or too jargon-y?
  • Am I creating enough curiosity that people will be willing to stick around and learn more?
  • Am I explaining my services so that the benefits and value come through loud and clear?
  • Am I being human enough to connect and credible enough to build trust?

I believe that refocusing my energies on being as meaningful as possible to my market is my competitive edge.

How are you dealing with the competitive and business realities of the current economic environment?

Image from tableatny under Creative Commons license.

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Learning and Teaching: Do Both for a Dynamic Career

Posted on July 27, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Communications, Education, Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Learning and Teaching a Dynamic Lifelong Cycle

Both learning and teaching contribute to a dynamic career

I’ve been thinking about the learning and teaching cycle.

When I first started this blog, I was an inbound marketing neophyte, just starting to transition my communications practice from traditional PR to an array of online services. At the time I was acutely aware of being a student and sought teachers and mentors.

Ironically, I was moving from a place where I was highly competent and knowledgeable and where I was teacher and mentor to interns who sought me out and went on to make it in the business. Stepping into their shoes turned out to be an exciting and energizing experience.

Today, I’m still a student because there’s always something new to learn. And I love being engaged in learning. It’s stimulating. But almost three years into this transition, with a body of good work to point to in my new service areas, I’ve begun to feel credible as a teacher again – even moreso with my new knowledge and skills integrated into my earlier experience.

It’s a good thing, too, because businesses still need a great deal of education in order to begin taking advantage of the powerful marketing tools available to them. Teaching is so gratifying because it reveals to us just how much we’ve learned and can apply to helping our clients. It also clearly points the direction to our next student stint.

The cycle of knowing and needing to learn keeps us moving productively into the future. What are you learning and teaching?

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Inbound Marketing Education is in Middle School

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Content, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

HubSpot Inbound Marketing System

HubSpot Developed an Efficient System for Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has been around for several years now. It’s the subject of bestselling books by David Meerman Scott and HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In fact, HubSpot has surpassed the 5000-customer mark for the Internet-based content management system they invented to put all of the pieces of inbound marketing together.

Yet, when I sit in a roomful of business owners and ask how many people know what inbound marketing is, frequently all hands stay down. Or a hand will shoot up and the eager contributor will say, “Social Media.”

It’s clear to me that we inbound marketers have a lot more work to do educating the marketplace about the approach. Yes, social media is a component of inbound marketing, but it’s only one.

There seems to be pretty widespread awareness of other inbound marketing components, too, like SEO, blogging and email marketing. Yet there’s little awareness of how all of these efforts can coalesce in an effective and measurable process. This post is one of a number I’ve written to help flesh out the process in a way that’s meaningful to business people.

At heart, inbound marketing is just marketing updated to reach our potential customers where they are – online – then to get their interest and win their trust so that when they buy, they buy from us. These days, it’s harder, if not impossible, to find our prospects by advertising in newspapers (why they’re shrinking), by telemarketing (think voicemail), on TV (thanks to TiVo and DVR) and other traditional channels. But future buyers are almost all online – at least enough of them to keep our businesses growing.

Business owners and managers I speak with will often say, “Well, we’re driving lots of traffic to our website, but we’re not sure what it’s getting us.” Then I ask, “What’s your bounce rate? And what are you doing to convert traffic to leads?”

They begin to understand inbound marketing when I explain how it serves as a lead generation and lead nurturing system. When they realize that inbound marketing can be planned and implemented with the objective of helping them reach revenue goals, it becomes a much more interesting idea to explore. It becomes a compelling idea when they recognize that analytics can be integrated and success measured.

There are a lot of steps to inbound marketing. It can seem daunting at first. It does take some re-thinking about how you do marketing. And it does take an investment of time, staff resources and budget. But, properly done, it works and pays big dividends.

I use HubSpot’s content management system for my own company’s inbound marketing. There are other ways to approach and handle inbound marketing using multiple sources. But for me, HubSpot offers the best system, education and support – especially for small to mid-sized companies I work with.

As the product matures, there’s now a developer’s marketplace growing up around HubSpot that’s yielding and will continue to produce plug-ins, variations and customization for the original software, similar to WordPress. They’ve also made some recent acquisitions that will beef up various aspects of the product – including middle-of-the-funnel and larger enterprise functionality.

At minimum, HubSpot walks the walk regarding sharing useful information. The company is a virtual content factory and you can immerse in free educational downloads, blogs and other information, free webinars and a free trial to get a good feel for how inbound marketing works.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a HubSpot Value Added Reseller in addition to being a user. But I don’t mean this post to be a commercial. I became a VAR because HubSpot is the most intelligent and efficient inbound marketing system I’ve found. It can help my clients to grow their businesses and I can help clients to better utilize the system from the VAR position.

Have you learned enough about inbound marketing to begin implementing it in some form?

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Networking Online and Offline: Anatomy of a Great Day

Posted on July 21, 2011. Filed under: Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Networking, Online Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Networking Online and Offline

A Day Of Networking is Energizing

Today was a marathon networking day with both online and offline communities that are important to me – and to my business.

Early this morning I read blogs I subscribe to including Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, my ethnomusicologist Sociosound and my rock ‘n roll management guru Peter Cook who posted a brilliant satire on blues lyrics that started my day with a smile.

Then I went to my Twitter profile to connect with some new folks who followed me yesterday and made initial contact. Next, I sent a few invitations to people I want to connect with on LinkedIn – and accepted some invitations that came in overnite. And I received notices that people who I put into Google+ Circles yesterday on my first interaction with that new social network had put me into circles of theirs.

At noon, I arrived at the Riverside Yacht Club inGreenwich,Connfor the summer luncheon of Thursday III, a professional group of senior PR executives and consultants. The group is fascinating and stimulating. The members are authors and PR icons who guided communications for Fortune 100 companies, major agencies and presidential administrations. I fall only marginally into any of those categories and am honored to sit at lunch with these brilliant and creative people every other month. The stories and the knowledge sharing that happens in that group is the stuff that NY Times bestselling books are made of.

A delightful aspect of the luncheon was that I sat between Ed Bloch who was a PR executive for Perkin Elmer and Ian Kerr who led important PR agencies in Fairfield County and represented luxury global brands including Jaguar and Rolls Royce. Both Ed and Ian are beloved figures in the local and broader PR community. Both have wry senses of humor that make them really enjoyable lunch partners.

Ed Bloch subscribes to this blog and noticed my increased frequency of posting. He good-naturedly teased me that my posts were piling up but that he intended to read them. I gave him some suggestions of how he could work them into his day – including bathroom reading, I’m afraid to admit. I’m including him in this post partly so that I can tempt him to read what I said about him when I post it.

After a bit of catch-up in my office, I met with Connecticut Networking Group www.ctconnected.org. This is a spectacular high-level group of mostly young and accomplished business people – entrepreneurs in fact and at heart. We’re more an advisory board to one another’s businesses than a so-called leads group. Again I’m something of an outlier as I’m a bit senior to most of the members. We get to know one another so that we can refer each other with confidence. We share a consultative and relationship-building approach to business development.

Going from my seasoned PR colleagues to my young, energetic and exceptional networking group was a particularly rich experience; so much valuable input across generations.

After the CNG meeting, I went to a meet-up event on a big paddle wheeler on the Norwalk CT harbor – across from my house. This was a big open group where there were a few people from my established network and many whom I didn’t know. Unfortunately this event was not well organized – in particular, no name tags that would have facilitated and focused networking. I jumped ship right before the group took off for an unannounced harbor cruise – in favor of coming back to the office and posting to my blog and attending to other to-do’s.

 All in all, this was a very positive day of connection. We never know what may come of a day like this. But who cares. It re-charges the engines to engage with our communities, reconnects us with people who add to our lives and gives us the opportunity to widen out our circles. Time well spent in my book.

Please share your on- and offline networking experiences.

 

Image via cambodia4kidsorg under Creative Commons license.

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Put Your Company First This Week to Drive Client Success

Posted on July 18, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Marketing is a small business priority

Make Marketing a Business Priority

Welcome to Monday. After a very lovely weekend break – my darling Jeff and I jumped on the Harley and did 150 miles each way on an overnite to the Berkshires – I’m back with my nose to the grindstone. First on my agenda is how do I move my business ahead this week? I consider this a fundamental focus for getting better results for my clients.

Following is my list – in priority order – for today. You’ll notice that before I implement one client project, I’m focused on my own marketing. If I don’t ensure that I can keep my company moving forward, I can help no one else. And then my company has no reason to exist. After Monday I spend more daily time on client projects, but I dedicate time each day to my own marketing — and so should you.

Monday morning:

  • Write a blog post for publicizing and publicizing later in the day. (This is the one for Monday)
  • Check my website and blog stats and see what’s resonating with my audiences. Based on that, establish marketing objectives for the near and longer term.
  • Read and comment on trade blogs and news to keep abreast of market developments.
  • Write/Edit my co-authored column for theFairfieldand Westchester County Business Journals.
  • Write collaborative letter for joint marketing affiliation.
  • Spend time on my Hubspot content management system to plan traffic and lead generation and lead-nurturing campaigns.
  • Touch base with affiliates and networking groups and set personal get-togethers for the week.
  • Work on responding to requests for proposals.

Afternoon:

  • Read and reply to imperative client emails.
  • Review projects and create client to-do list for the week.
  • Work on strategies to meet client objectives.
  • Research, write, review, edit, publish client content and perform SEO activities as required by online project timelines.
  • Email clients to obtain sign-offs on previously submitted concepts and content to move projects forward.
  • Make calls to clients to expedite project issues that are better served by phone that email.

Although the list seems longer for a.m. activities, there are far more moving parts in implementing successfully for clients.

The point of this post…Our clients are our primary focus, but if we don’t put our own businesses first for at least a morning a week – and for some concerted time each day, we’re abdicating our ability to remain successful contributors to the business world.

Image by Banalities under Creative Commons license.

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5 Steps to Finding Your Key Messages for Better Content Creation

Posted on July 15, 2011. Filed under: Communications, Content, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Key Messages for Better Communication

Identify Key Messages for Better Communication

When you’re about to undertake a major communications project – a new website, for example – you have an opportunity to review your messaging. What are the most important points for an audience to know about you and your business, the things you will need to repeat continuously and consistently, regardless of the kind of content.

Many companies have never purposely developed key message lists. This exercise is more important than ever. Especially online. Messaging consistency and redundancy comes into play on websites, as you never know what page will be the entry point for a visitor. It’s not always your home page. It’s also important to include key messages in content you offer for download and that you post aound the Internet.

Here’s a 5-step process for identifying the key messages that will resonate and stick with your audiences.

1. Review your existing content and marketing materials. Sometimes we go on auto-pilot when writing or speaking about ourselves and our companies. Keep an open mind for stale messages that can use an update – or that you can lose altogether.

2. Interview your employees, customers, referral sources and others who know your company. Create a brief questionnaire (it may vary by auience) that asks for impressions about different aspects of your business. Anywhere from five to ten interviews should yield the raw material that will offer up key messages. The interviews will confirm some of your notions about what’s important about your business and refute others. Some of what you’ll learn will truly surprise you. You’ll likely get more candid answers if you hire an outside consultant to help you, rather than asking the questions personally.

3. Read the home page information of a few competitors, or non-competing companies similar to yours and take notes. See how they’re talking about their businesses, products and services. This will not only give you some ideas of what to say and not to say, but will also help you position your messaging to reflect your company’s market differentiation. 

4. Review the interviews and your competitor notes. In the interviews you will almost certainly see repeating comments and ideas. Some of these will be key points that you’ve made historically, some will be fresh ideas.

5. Let your review of the process sink in for a day or two. Then sit down at the computer and make a list of your key messages. They should not be in any order of hierarchy. Put them down as they come to you. You’ll never use all of them in one place, but will pick and choose from the list as appropriate. You’ll also vary the language from one place to another, as long as the key idea is in there someplace. Tweak the list. See if anything is glaringly missing. Ask a few of the interviewees to review the key message list to be sure they reflect your company authentically.

Once you have your key message list, you’ll be amazed at how easily you write your content. The copy will flow. You’ll find yourself working in the right key messages in the right places. Your key message list will also provide a good starting point for key word and search term research.

By the way, you don’t need a new website as a reason to review your messaging. Do it at any time. It will definitely help your ongoing content creation.

How do you identify your key messages?

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Online Lessons from My Offline Networking Group

Posted on July 14, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Business Management, Communications, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I belong to a networking group that I experience as exceptional. We’re all in service businesses. Some of us are business owners. Some of us work for companies. But we’re all entrepreneurial at heart.

Business Networking

Not! Networking Takes Time!!

We’re all competent at our businesses. We share high ethical standards and values. We found each other in the wider world through introductions, networking events introductions from other trusted connections. We identified each other as people that we want to ‘follow’ – to borrow the online concept.

Our group is not about trading leads. It’s a longer term play. It’s about getting to know one another. It’s about building confidence and trust. It’s about learning enough about each other that we can recognize good opportunities for other group members when confronted with them.

We span demographics of age and gender. We maintain decorum but are comfortable enough with one another that we can let down our guard and be human. We exist to help one another, understanding that the sharing will help our individual businesses.

When I build online communities for myself and for my clients, I think about the principles behind my offline network and try to approach online community building with the same sense of shared interest and generosity.

You can learn more about our group model at www.ctconnected.org. Feel free to borrow. It works.

Do you have an offline networking group? Tell us about it and how it helps you to build your business.

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