Don’t Let Website Visitors Be Just That…

Why not turn them into returning customers and clients?  But do you know how to do that without monitoring your website 24/7?  Or without being a website/email stalker?  It’s a lot easier than it sounds, and if you’re online with a website for your business (which you have no excuse not to be) than you absolutely must have an email capturing system in place.

So exactly what is an email capturing system? Simply put it’s a means to capture or ‘record’ the email addresses of visitors to your website.  It’s not as James Bond as it sounds, but it’s a simple program you incorporate on your website that asks for an email address in exchange for something from you. Whether it be a free e-report, or an e-book, or simply your bi weekly newsletter. The idea here is to give something away to those visitors in exchange for their email address and consent to contact them in the future.  Essentially this is list-building, and it’s kind of a big deal.

Here’s why: When visitors happen to come to your website and for whatever reason they don’t buy on that first visit (and this is usually the case), they may in fact want to remember you or maybe just keep you fresh in their minds for when they do need you. Without a system in place for them to do that, they might remember to bookmark you….but they probably will forget. And the chances of them finding you again, after the phone rang,  they ran to the neighbors and then left to pick up the kids are super slim.

But, if you have a handy little spot that says “hey visitor, lookey here I have a wonderful free bag of tricks I’d like to give you interested? Great leave your name and email address below and it’s all yours” Of course not in those words, but again you get the idea.  You want to give them something of value, so they feel like you value them. It’s a pretty easy concept to get, but until it’s pointed out you might just miss the enormous opportunity.

And here’s the best part. Say you’re wanting to run a special or you have a great deal to offer. Now all those ‘visitors’ who left you their email address can hear it first hand straight from you.  Got a 2 for 1 deal goin’ on, shoot that to them in a quick newsletter or update.  Goin’ on vaca, yup they may want to know that too.  It’s a great way to keep you fresh in their minds, and one of the best ways to do ‘warm and fuzzy’ sales.

I frequently utilize this system to pre-sell my existing clients and to inform them when I have upcoming openings. That way if they’re considering hiring me to assist them, they know that in 2 weeks I’m free.  The uses and benefits are endless and should be implemented as soon as your website is live.

Just think of the visitors you’re missing out on right now…this very second..without an email capturing system.  No worries friends, because if you need assistance with a system, contact me and my team at Pink Spring Media and we’ll get you capturing in no time 🙂

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Being Hip to Technology…is Must for Business Owners

Another fabulous blog post, by my Hero in Chief Chris Brogan. Enjoy my friends…this guy really rocks. Don’t believe me Google him.

This is why you need to keep an ear to the ground on new technology. Oh, and this is not an ad.

Square, the new payment processing system, is a game changer. It allows any merchant (and we can even use this term loosely) to accept payments from any smart device with a headphones jack. You set up an account, get the little reader device, and load the software, and you can accept payments. It’s super easy. But that’s not all.

You don’t need a special merchant account. You don’t need a contract. You get a free mobile card reader, free setup, no monthly fees, and cheaper-than-most rates on the percent taken by the vendor (2.75 percent + 15 cents if the card is present and 3.5 percent + 15 cents if you key the card in manually).

When my parents started a wire-wrap jewelry business, the credit card reader and related merchant account fees were the biggest expense they incurred that wasn’t directly related to the project. This platform would have saved them tons. And they might not have heard about it, had they not stayed keyed to what’s new and what’s coming out.

It’s Easy to Get Complacent

We don’t look at new computers coming out because we already have a computer. We don’t listen to all the new features in the new phones because we already bought a Blackberry, a Palm, and so on. We believe that we’ve solved that technology issue because we already did it once.

That’s not how we treat our bodies. We go to the doctor reasonably regularly. We get our teeth checked out two times a year. We take our cars in every 3,000 or 5,000 miles or so. But we don’t do the same with the systems for our business?

How Often Should You Look?

Talk about asking myself a question that’s tricky to answer. How often should you look for game changing new technology that might impact how you do business? It changes daily, it seems. But I have a feeling about this. I think you could look four times a year and be better off than not at all. Four times.

So, maybe January, April, July, October, if that makes sense. I picked those because January’s a great time to rebuild. April is right before the summer rush. July is right in the down time (depending on your business type), and October is right before the holiday season. (These are in U.S. terms. You can fold this into your calendar easily enough).

And where would you look? I’d be bragging if I said that OPEN Forum does a great job of helping you stay informed. Beyond here? Mashable has great news. So does ReadWriteWeb. Beyond that, you might want to look for a blog that talks about your particular area of interest. Not sure where to start? Check outAlltop.

Stay Open to What’s New

A handful of years ago, the answer to which office software you should use would be Microsoft Office, or if you were nerdy, OpenOffice. Now, there’s Google Docs as a very strong contender.

Three years ago, the first iPhone hadn’t changed the game in cell phones. Now, instead of asking how many minutes you get, people ask how many apps the platform supports. Things change so fast. You have to stay open, or you risk missing new opportunities to improve your business.

Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book,Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.

8 Extreme Marketing Makeover Bits for under $100

Who said marketing your business has to cost a lot of money?  If you’re clear on who your ideal customer is and what’s important to them when they are buying what you’re selling, you are in for a treat. Today, I’m going to share some of my favorite new resources for helping you get new customers and build more profitable relationships with existing ones — all on a budget.

1. Get a single phone number. Google Voice has just emerged out of beta with features that will make your small business look bigger.  Use their  customized voice mail feature to create customized greetings for groups and individuals.

Imagine how impressive you’ll sound when your target customers receive a voicemail message recorded with a focus on what’s important to THEM.  How much more professional would you look if you were able to record an important interview or conversation on the spot?  Get a single number to give out to customers, contacts, friends and family.  Now your customer won’t have to call three numbers to ask a question!

Google Voice is primarily free.  The only cost involved is when you want to make international calls.

2. Update your website.  If you’ve been putting off updating your website because of the expense of changing the content and design, rejoice.  Start fresh by using WordPress as your web site platform. There are thousands of FREE template designs released every day.  And because WordPress is an open source platform, it’s easy to find a developer to make the changes you’d like to make.  If you’re still skeptical, check out what the folks atContent Robot can do for you.

3. Advertise on TV for as little as $20 per spot. This is NOT a joke.  Creating and placing a killer ad on TV is no longer out of reach for small business.  Google TV Ads is making a splash with this easy to use ad placement platform and guess what? Your ad will play on cable television. You can use the “Spotmixer” tool to create an ad or you can choose from among thousands of suppliers who can create the spot for you.

4. Increase the size of your community and build a loyal list of fans and followers. We’ve all gotten the advice to “run a contest” or “give away coupons” to build and engage your social media community.  If you’re like me, you’ve decided to do just that, then stopped in your tracks with exactly how to pull it all together.  Now there’s an application out there called Wildfire that will take you from the decision to run a contest or a sweepstakes to the actual launch.  Start with just $5 and $.99 per day and then use the revenues you’ve gotten from your success to work your way up to bigger budgets. Take a tour and visit the blog to get ideas before you get started.

5. Price for profit. Don’t be afraid of changing prices in a challenging market.  Are you currently using cost plus? Start a value pricing strategy.  First make a list of all the alternatives your customers have, layout the offer and the price.  Identify specific features that set you apart and quantify the value behind those features.  In his best selling book,1% Windfall, Rafi Mohammedwill walk you through process for pricing in ways that not only yield more profit, but more loyal customers.

6. Create a custom toolbar. If you’re like me, you might have assumed that creating a mobile app or a toolbar app would either be too technically difficult or expensive.  This is simply not true.  First check out Conduit. Whatever can be done on your site can be done on a browser app. Make reservations, order tickets, shop, etc.  If you have a business that can use its products, services or expertise to make your customers’ lives easier — this can be a terrific community building and lead generation tool.

7. Do market research. I had never thought of creating a viral survey until I found out that QuestionPro online survey software had a “Connect with Facebook” feature.  This means that you can create a survey, launch it on Facebook and watch it go viral as friends and fans pass YOUR survey on to their networks; who pass it on to their fans and so on.  If you are interested in finding out how different segments might perceive or react to a product, service or idea — give this a try.

8. Make social media simpler. Have you been to Constant Contact lately?  No?  Well they are so much more than newsletters and email marketing.  They’ve recently acquired Nutshell Mail, a FREE service that will help you keep track of what your customers are saying about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.  If you think social media is a time waster, Nutshell Mail is a time saver.  You get all your social media delivered in a single snapshot email.
If the primary purpose of any marketing strategy is to get your ideal customer to choose you instead of the other guy — then these marketing makeovers will get you well on the road to getting chosen without losing your shirt in the process.

* * * * *

Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer.  She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers a site for in-house marketers.  Her blog is Strategy Stew.

Perfect example of how to leverage Facebook for your small business

Here’s a perfect example of how a small ice cream company is utilizing the awesome leverage of Facebook to create brand awareness and get involved with their customers.  Great Read!

Here’s what they did: Having created a nice Facebook fan page, Tillamook asked people what they thought of when they took their first bite of Tillamook Ice Cream. People posted some great stories, so much so that the dairy decided to use those testimonials as the basis for their entire TV ad campaign.

They then took it one step further, using Facebook again, this time to put out a casting call for the commercials. As a result, the Tillamook commercials use real customers sharing their real feelings about ice cream they really love (after all, they signed up to be online fans, right?) As such, the spots have an authentic feel to them that gives Tillamook a leg up on the competition.

The entire campaign is a great example of how any business can use social media to create a unique marketing campaign, even with a small budget. In this case, it was real customers who created the content and real customers who starred in the ads. Talk about savings.

I would suggest that there are two key takeaways from what Tillamook is doing that you can use in your own business:

The first is that it is simply not enough to have a social media presence anymore. The real trick is to engage people online in such a way that they get a benefit out of spending their e-time with you. That is what the Tillamook Facebook fan page did.

Online, there are literally millions of choices when people surf around. They will choose you only if they find their interactions with you and your site engaging and rewarding, meaning, having a site, fan page, or Twitter account is probably not enough. The real trick is to forge a connection.

How? There is no shortage of ways:

  • Have a contest
  • Post a poll
  • Give away free stuff
  • Engage and chat with them – build relationships
  • Have a “fan of the week”
  • Create a quiz
  • Create a mobile app

You get the idea. That is what Tillamook did. They created a place online where people can connect and hang out – by offering videos, recipes, contests, and more.

The second thing that Tillamook did right that is worthy of emulation is that they relied on user-created content to make that connection. The power of user-created content is two-fold:

First, it is incredibly affordable because it is your customers, and not your business, that is taking the time and effort to create the content. Sure you have to cull through it to see what is usable, but that is a whole lot easier than creating it all yourself.

Second, because it is your customers and not you creating the content, it inherently is considered reliable; when someone takes the time to create content on your site, they must really like what you do.

How do you get users to create content? It’s the same idea: You could host forums or have a contest, Call for essays or videos or testimonials or maps or flags or models or whatever it is that relates to your business.

By doing these two things: engaging with the people who visit your site and getting them to create some of your content. You too can have some yummy results.

10 ‘Super-Friending’ Tactics…You Should Be Using

There was a day when Twitter was just a tiny site with a 140-character blank box.  Today, the messaging service is now home to more than two billion tweets per month.  The company’s CTO Dick Costolo recently announced that they’re signing up 135,000 new registrations a day.  With so much conversation on just one website, it’s tough to know how to get your business stand out from the online chatter. I just published a book called Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business, and it demystifies social media to help grow your business. Although it’s a 50,000 word read, here are the top ten tips from the book that should entice you to learn more.

1. Act authentically. A few years I worked as a social media consultant with Tony Robbins. As a leading speaker, entrepreneur, and coach, he is one of the busiest people I know. Still, today, Tony has time to manage many of his own social media efforts. As an active Twitter user (@tonyrobbins), he shares honest and compelling personal and professional messages. When he recently celebrated his 50th birthday, he took the time to record a friendly audio message for his fans. Being honest, accessible, and authentic is a key ingredient to social media success.

2. Make time. People complain endlessly about not having time to roll social media efforts into their lives. Let’s face it, many of us are short on time. As many highly effective people will attest, you always have time for the things you put first. Take the Tony example, I’m quite sure he doesn’t have time to record friendly audio and video messages for an audience but he makes time because he knows it’s important for his business.

3. Be consistent. As much as you want to run away from your email and the web for a few days here and there, to ensure that your online marketing efforts are getting results try to participate in the social media world on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean that you have to stay glued to your computer 24-7, but try to respond to comments within twenty-four or forty-eight hours during the work week.

4. Tell stories. If you’re looking for content ideas, there is nothing better than a good story. Whether you’re sharing photos on Flickr or blogging on Blogger, people love to look inside the lives of people at home and at work.  Although you don’t want to share anything that makes you uncomfortable, a little personality goes a long way online.

5. Plan ahead. When I interviewed the face of Ford’s social media efforts for my book he explained that a strategic plan kept his company on top. “A solid social media strategy meant that we had a plan and were well prepared for the newfound attention we received,” said Scott Monty.  While you might not be experience a huge wave of social media activity right now, six months down the road this could change. As a result, you should be prepared.

6. Embrace criticism. No one likes negative comments, but may times this feedback can help your organization make appropriate changes. The worst thing you can do when someone lashes out with a complaint is to ignore them completely. Often times, the individual simply wants a reaction and someone to listen to their problems.

7. Listen well. To pick up on the last point, be aware of what people are saying about your brand or business. A free and easy way to do this is to sign up for Google Alerts, so you can monitor online conversations on a regular basis.  Depending on what you hear, look to your plan to figure out how you want to engage.

8. Create a policy. As social media continues to grow quickly, and more than 400 million people worldwide continue to flock to Facebook, now is a good time for your business to develop a social media policy. This document can help your team determine what’s appropriate to talk about online, and how they should interact in various situations. For example, Coca-Cola’s social media policy includes a few smart guidelines, including advising employees that the Internet is permanent and that local posts have global significance.

9. Go mobile. Remember how quickly the mobile world is exploding. Within more than one million iPads sold since launch, the demand for apps on the go shouldn’t be ignored.  Consider developing your own application, either now or put it on your project plan for the future.

10. Have fun. Although the technology is constantly evolving, and often frustrating, there are lots of exciting opportunities in the social media environment. A few weeks ago I hosted a workshop where attendees were tasked with developing an online video campaign for a fictitious airline in under thirty minutes. Many groups pitched pretty traditional ideas, but one group dragged their chairs up on stage and acted out an online skit with “Amelia Earhart” leading the audience through their plans to go viral. In other words, the most creative and original ideas have the best chance to stand out.

Amber MacArthur is a social media consultant, speaker, and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business.

5 Sure-Fire Ways That Lead to More Referrals

Many businesses enjoy receiving referrals, but feel they come by mixing good work with chance mentions from satisfied customers.  Certainly, many referrals happen this way, but if you understand the realities of referrals listed below you might rethink your approach to referral generation, with an eye on taking a more proactive view of the process.

1) People Make Referrals Because They Need To

Some people hesitate asking for referrals out of fear that it feels like begging for business. If done with that frame of mind, it probably is. But if you realize people enjoy making referrals, and do so to build their own social capital, or to create a flow of referrals for themselves, then you might start to look at this entire subject a little differently.

If you truly believe in the results you or your products can bring, then maybe you’re doing your customers a disservice by not showing them how to bring those results to their friends and colleagues.

So, how can you change how you view what asking for a referral means?

2) All Referrals Involve Risk

While people enjoy making referrals, they also represent a great risk. If you refer a friend to a business, and that business doesn’t perform, you bare some of the responsibility.

When you refer a business, you loan some of the trust you’ve built to that bsuiness or individual being referred. You minimize risk with out of this world guarantees, a great education process, and a professional follow-up system.

So, what can you do to eliminate risk?

3) People Don’t Refer Boring Businesses

Think back, when’s the last time you got excited about a perfectly satisfying experience? People make referrals most when they are excited about a business. Having a great product or service is a great start, but you must also look for ways to drape that great product or service in an equally great experience.

This is the place where investing in a culture of great service can pay big. I recently interviewed Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zaapos, and he claims that Zappos is a customer happiness company that happens to sell shoes and apparel.

Remarkable businesses rarely happen by accident. This might be the hardest work yet. But get the customer experience right and you won’t need to spend much on lead generation going forward.

What can you do that no one else in your industry is doing?

4) The Greatest Referral Truth Is Trust

I’ve long used a non-textbook definition of marketing for the small business. Marketing is getting someone, who has a need to know, to like and trust you. While you can buy a little know and like in your marketing efforts, trust is hard earned and easily eroded. Without trust, referrals rarely happen.

Trust comes from keeping your promises, doing the right thing, and setting proper expectation. These days it also comes from working very hard on a fully developed web presence.

Even a referred lead is likely to turn to the Internet to research that great company their buddy keeps raving about. It’s a fact of business these days, if a referred lead can’t find significant content, including reviews, video lessons and social network participation. The sum of participation online is a large trust factor.

What would I find if I searched your name on a search engine?

5) Marketing is a System

Businesses need to view marketing much like they view other aspect of business. Most businesses have processes of some sort to allow them to deliver consistent work in an efficient manner.

I think marketing needs to work this way as well, and this certainly applies to referral generation. It’s important to create a referral strategy, a set of steps or processes to make referrals happen, a set way to educate and collect from referral sources and a rock solid follow-up plan. Once in place, all you need to do is operate the system. Market get a lot easier when you view it this way.

What does your referral system look like?

John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

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