5 Social Media Lies That Scare Business Owners

I am a copywriter. I have a degree in English, with a concentration in writing. Running a business has given me an education in marketing and sales. Personal inclination has given me some expertise in social media. (Yeah, I’m addicted. So what? There are worse things.)

So, while I may want to write articles all day, I often end up answering client questions about social media and marketing, and whether it’s all useful or if it’s just hype. I don’t mind

“You mean that’s not TRUE?!”

answering those questions, and sometimes it’s fun to help a new client get things set up. Usually though, people believe one of the following lies they have been told and (continue) to avoid using social media platforms at all.

1. Social media will take up a lot all of my time. This is probably the biggest fear that busy people have. Social media will take up exactly as much time as you let it. Sure, you could spend hours upon hours exploring, looking at photos, watching videos, and reading articles. Lots of people do. But you could also spend hours in front of the television. Or, you can turn the TV off.

The easiest way to make sure social media doesn’t become a time suck (the most common description I hear from people who don’t use it) is to set yourself some limits. Decide that you can dedicate exactly 15 minutes to Facebook in the morning, or give yourself 20 minutes to respond to comments on all of the social channels you use. You have control and will not be magically hypnotized and forced to spend days staring at your screen.

2. There is no practical business use for social media.If you still think this, you are well behind the curve. There are tons of practical business uses for social media, from networking with colleagues, peers, and mentors to providing outstanding customer service and learning more about what your customers want and need. It’s true that not many sales happen on social media platforms, but all sorts of other business stuff does. You can tell people about sales, find out what people are looking for, describe new products, speak individually to the people who make running your business possible, and you can educate people.

Most business owners will tell you about something their customers just don’t understand. Social media gives you the opportunity to help them understand. You can explain your relationship with your suppliers, why your return policy is what it is, where your products come from, how you are different from the guy down the street, what they should expect after making a purchase, or whatever else it is people just don’t get which is exactly why business needs digital transformation in order to keep that communication between the business owner and their clients as well as being able to continue to advertise on social media.

3. I will have no privacy at all if I use social media.You get to decide what you share or don’t share on social media. Facebook is probably the most frequently cited platform when people have privacy concerns. You can put whatever you like as your Facebook cover photo but make sure you use the right facebook cover photo size. You should be concerned about privacy. You should educate yourself about the terms of service of any platform you use. But you should also always remember that you have control. Facebook has a number of ways you can (and should) separate your personal profile from your business page.

Not one single social media platform that you might want to use for business requires you to list the high school you attended. You should guard your home address and phone number carefully. Most certainly be careful with information regarding your children, especially images of them. Authenticity and transparency are great, but so is common sense. If you are using social media for business, then talk about your business. You have control regarding what you share.

4. There are ways to automate social media so I can “set it and forget it”. There are automation tools. By and large, they don’t work. It is much better to choose one or two platforms that you can easily manage than to start accounts on five sites and then automate them. Probably the most commonly used automation tool is linking your different accounts together so that you can type in one status update and it will appear on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – probably others, too, but I don’t know because I don’t use those tools.

Why is this such a bad idea? Are your conversations with your colleagues and peers the same as with your customers? What about your friends? There probably is some overlap, but it is likely your peers know much more about your business than your customers do, and your friends probably don’t want to hear about your business. Your audience is important, and varies depending on which social media platform you are using.

5. Social media will help me make thousands of dollars more each year. Social media can do lots of things, but it is not a magic money maker. Like any other marketing tool, it requires strategy and work. Sales don’t usually take place on social media sites, although many of your friends, fans, likers, or whatnot will visit your primary web site where sales can take place. (You have a primary web site, right?)

There are stories about business owners making connections that lead to huge sales because they are active on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or whatever, but there are also stories about business owners making connections that lead to huge sales on the golf course. Neither social media nor golf is required to run a successful business. You can make connections anywhere.

Since I spend a considerable amount of time online, it surprises me that there are still lots of people out there who believe these lies. None of this is new stuff, but for a business owner trying to figure out how to get started, or why things are working as expected, it is important stuff.

If you would like to learn more about social media and how it can work in your industry, for your business, you might enjoy digibiztrainingcompany.com. Take a look. Enjoy some blog posts. Sign up to receive email.

Read More

How To Decide If Your Business Needs a Newsletter

It’s a pretty good idea to come up with your own marketing plan based on the abundance of advice you can find online, then outsource it to third parties, for example a printing service who can produce communications for you, this way you save money. People pay me to write newsletters for their businesses, and I’m mostly in favor of them. But there are some situations where they just don’t work. In this post, I’m going to tell you about three of my past clients. Reading about their experiences with newsletters, and in one instance, social media, may help you make some decisions about your own marketing efforts.

Blueberry or Apple? Sometimes decisions are hard!

Case Study #1 – The Plumber

I live in a small community, on a mountain. There are somewhere around 7,000 residents, and three plumbers. One of those plumbers decided to hire me to improve his company’s web site copy and to write a monthly newsletter.

What kind of content would you like to receive from your plumber? In retrospect (this was one of my first clients) I think that a quarterly newsletter, sent at the beginning of each season, would have been better than a monthly newsletter. It should have included lots of tips on maintaining your home during the upcoming season, a funny story or customer highlight, a coupon of some sort, and maybe a note about the plumber’s family, or even a small community news section.

Instead, I did what the owner asked and sent out a rather bland, monthly newsletter with sort of generic content that was more or less an ad being delivered to customers via email. I will readily accept the blame for the fact that this newsletter didn’t produce the desired results because hindsight is 20/20. If the same, or a similar, client were to approach me today, my advice would be much different and also much more adamant.

Producing a newsletter that is almost like a community bulletin board is hard work. Telling people how to fix things you get paid to fix feels like a risk. Writing in a very personal way to your customers can feel unprofessional. But those are the ways to make a newsletter work for a company that customers only need to call every few years. It may very well be that your time and money would be better spent on ad space. There is not a one size fits all marketing strategy.

*Note: Every business with a physical location should be findable online. There are still people who keep phone books, but most of us are searching for phone numbers online. Make sure we can find you!

Case Study #2 – The Hair Salon

Another of my very early customers was a hair salon. The owner of the salon had tried a newsletter and gotten very poor results – along the lines of a 7% open rate. That means only 7% of the people she sent the newsletter to even opened it. Since this was still early in my copy writing career, I wanted to see if a newsletter could be effective for a salon, so I talked the owner into trading three haircuts for three newsletters.

You may be wondering what kind of open rate you should expect. It varies by industry. For the beauty industry the average is around 15%, which I think is absolutely dismal and reflects the fact that there is some bad email marketing going on in that business sector. The average open rate for my clients is around 30% across a range of industries.

For a hair care/beauty related establishment, email marketing can work wonders. By the end of our three months, the salon’s open rate had moved to 27%, and with each issue the owner reported a bump in the number of appointments for the following week. So, what did we change?

We took the stories from general to specific. Instead of talking about trends across the nation, we talked about things that were becoming popular locally. We offered customer spotlights, and included photos of customers. The salon owner kept track of questions customers asked each week and we developed articles based on those questions. We tested subject lines to find out which ones motivated people to open emails. The owner offered exclusive deals to newsletter subscribers.

The salon owner and I talked on the phone about once a week, and exchanged emails a couple of times a week. Generating ideas, finding images or taking photographs, thinking up deals and promotions, and even proofreading the rough draft of each issue took up a significant portion of her time. In this instance, it was worth the effort because it paid off in at least a few appointments more each month. Depending on your resources, time, and situation, you may decide email marketing is not worth the effort. This case study illustrates that poor results from email marketing can be remedied.

Case Study #3 The Truck Repair Business

Of the three case studies presented in this post, this is the one that I hesitate to share. I’m going to be very vague about the details, in an attempt to protect the identity of the company. I met with the CEO who had started his business in the 70s out of a trailer and worked his ass off to turn it into a nationally recognized company with representatives all over the country. There is absolutely no denying his business acumen, and I was flattered he agreed to talk with me.

He had been approached by an agency who had pitched him a digital marketing package. They would handle his company’s Twitter account, blog, and Facebook page – none of which existed at that point. He asked me for a proposal, and my price was a fraction of what the agency was going to charge. He accepted my proposal, and I set about trying to learn how his industry works, and what his needs were. Even though I really believed a newsletter would be an excellent tool for his company, he was unconvinced, because he really hated receiving newsletters from other companies. I began with social media.

He was desperately seeking a salesperson for a particular region at that point, so I offered to try write an ad he could post on a couple of major sites. I mentioned it on his newly-built Facebook page.

As soon as he saw it, he called and scolded me and asked me to immediately take down the post mentioning the job opening. He told me “We are not the kind of company that looks for help in a place like Facebook.” I cannot adequately convey the amount of scorn that went into his voice when he said the word “Facebook.”

I am not now, nor have I ever been a big fan of Facebook for business purposes. It’s hard to deny the power of social media when it comes to filling employment vacancies, though. Maybe he didn’t want his competitors to know he had a vacancy. Maybe he had some other reason, I don’t know.

What I do know is that if you feel annoyed every time you open your email because you have too many messages, if you can’t stand Facebook, if you think Twitter is the stupidest thing ever, and you have no clue what Pinterest is, but you know that anything with a name that dumb is worthless…well, digital marketing is probably not a good place for you to spend your marketing time or budget – no matter what people are telling you.

When you run a small business, you must be comfortable with your marketing activities. It’s okay if you distrust the internet. There is no rule that says that you have to market online. People need to be able to find your company using a search engine, but you don’t have to use email marketing, or any other digital tool, to be successful. Just because something is working for someone else does not mean it will work for you.

Evaluate your customers’ needs, your resources, and your tolerance levels before you make decisions about newsletters or any other marketing tools. Even if the gurus are telling you that you must do a thing, decide for yourself, and if something doesn’t work, abandon it and find something that will work.

Read More

6 Ways to Mess Up Email Marketing

Super secret sale! This Saturday from 4-6pm only! Get 10% off all men’s underwear!”

Have you ever gotten an email that advertises a “sale” where you might save 15 cents, IF you get there at the right time, IF you know what to buy, and IF you know the super secret code word? Poorly executed email marketing annoys people you should be pleasing. It hurts your reputation as a business, and it could even have a negative impact on your sales. No one wants to have to experience this. And so that’s why some people may decide to get in touch with an internet marketing service who will be able to ensure that they focus on the aspects that need improving and that they avoid any mistakes that could lead to business negativity. It’s worth noting that 48.16% of global emails are marked as spam and never delivered to the people who are supposed to be receiving them. This is a crazy stat and one that email marketers will want to avoid. The best way to do that is through email verification, so knowing how to verify an email address is vital. Anyway, here are six mistakes to avoid:

1. Sending the same thing all the time. You might think you are varying your offer, but a 15% sale on shirts one week, then a 15% sale on skirts the next week, and a 15% off sale on socks the week after that, and on and on for 3 months? I quit opening your emails after the second week, and everyone else probably did, too.

Keep a list of promotions and ideas as they occur to you and refer to it when you need inspiration. It’s a good idea to send email without a promotion now and then – just share information, or advice, or even a joke. It’s fun to not know what to expect when you open an email.

2. Focusing on what YOU need instead of what I need.You opened your business so that you could have more flexible hours, be in control, and live the life you want to live, right? You want to rule out customers who argue about price, or who are rude, or who are always late, or who always complain, or whatever. Focusing on reaching your target audience and your ideal customer is great – just make sure

This dress is a fashion fail! Don’t let your email marketing be a failure too!

you aren’t alienating them in your efforts to rule others out.

Read your emails as if they were coming from a company you do business with as a customer. For example, if you own a clothing store, you could pretend your email is from one of your vendors. Practice seeing things from your customers’ point of view.

3. Overload! Hubspot says their studies have shown that people do not unsubscribe at a higher rate whether they send weekly or daily emails. Even though they are a big, well-known agency with all kinds of expertise, I’m going to have to disagree. Unless I signed up for daily emails, don’t send me daily emails. Or even every-other-daily. You are cluttering up my inbox, taking up my time, and really getting on my nerves.

When deciding how often to click “send” consider both what your subscribers signed up to receive, your own preferences, and whether or not what you have to say is really worth your subscribers’ time.

4. Sending to me without explicit permission. If you require my email address in order for me to complete a transaction and don’t tell me that you are also adding me to your list, it’s not only rude, it’s skirting violating the law. The CAN-SPAM Act exists for lots of reasons. Besides getting my permission, you need to make sure there is a way for me to unsubscribe.

5. Using a horrible template. Just because you can use lime green text on an orange background doesn’t mean you should. Just because you like a 24 point font doesn’t mean everyone else does. You get the idea. Try to take an objective look at your template. Is it hard on the eyes? Do you have to scroll for three days to get to the bottom? Is it cluttered? Are things off-center and weird looking?

It might seem petty, but I’m pretty quick to unsubscribe from ugly newsletters. Of course “ugly” is subjective, but it’s hard to go wrong with the basics. If you have any doubts about your template, go with the simplest, most basic one you can. After all, your message is what’s important, right?

6. Being consistently negative. You don’t have to act like one of the Stepford Wives, but try to look for a little brightness. Chances are, if you are sending out marketing email, you are selling something. Happy people are more likely to spend money.

Of course, if you are selling bomb shelters or something, by all means, be negative and create as much fear as you can muster. Just don’t expect me to subscribe to your emails!

Note: As I was writing this post, it felt a little familiar. Apparently these things have been bugging me for a while. A very similar post appeared on Smiling Tree Writing on February 15, 2012. It bears repeating, though, so I’m posting this one too! Maybe this counts as a blogging mistake, but oh, well.

Read More

Enough with the Navel Gazing

From Friday evening until Monday afternoon, the modem that makes the phone and internet service in my house work stopped working. At first, I was annoyed because I wanted to see what was happening on Twitter and Facebook. Then, I was worried because, “What if client’s were trying to get in touch with me?” So, throughout the day Monday, I was anxious, but also secretly a little excited that by the time I finally checked my email, there

Not my navel…

would be a couple of requests for work, or at least requests for more information in there.

Stop laughing. I can hope.

Of course my inbox was full of LinkedIn updates (I’ve got to turn those emails off somehow!) and spam from Amazon.

So then I started thinking about what I would have done all day Monday if I hadn’t been chasing a new modem. The answer has me re-thinking the whole idea of focus.

When you need clients (as I do) you need to spend a fair amount of time marketing. It’s awfully easy to put things under the heading “marketing” that probably shouldn’t be there. For example, reading through the discussion threads on LinkedIn daily is not really marketing. Posting updates to Facebook five or six times a day does not increase sales. Reading news stories, following election coverage, looking at photos of hurricane damage…well, you get the idea. I spend too much time doing all of those things.

This week, I am going to spend some time sharpening my focus. Here are a few important things, just off the top of my head:

Spend more time writing. Instead of checking Facebook, write a paragraph or two of this blog, on some of my personal projects, or guest posts. Those are better marketing projects than reading discussions on LinkedIn, or using any other type of social media networking. Social media has its place, but it is a limited place and should not take up much time during the work day.

Send more emails. Since my specialty is email marketing, you might imagine I’m right on top of clicking “send.” Remember the story about the cobbler and his barefoot children? Well, my own email list is sadly small because I have neglected it. When things are slow, I should focus on building that list, writing interesting stuff to send to the people on it, and otherwise following the excellent advice I give clients. (By the way, if you would like to receive my newsletter, go ahead and sign up.)

Make more marketing calls. I have always had good luck with just picking up the phone and calling people. It’s one of those things, like washing the dishes, that I dread for hours or even days before just biting the bullet. If you hate making calls, try only calling companies you have researched carefully. If you see something that indicates they might have a need for your service, it’s usually a pretty easy conversation. Making one or two calls instead of reading about the latest outrage committed by a politician is better for your business, and probably your spirit, too.

Keep a backup list handy. Your daily list probably consists of things that must be done right now. It’s really easy to waste time after everything on that must-do-now list is done. It is far more productive to keep a backup list of things that you want to work on but think you don’t have time to work on handy. I want to write fiction, but trick myself into believing I don’t have time to dedicate to it. If I limited the time I spend clicking links my smart friends on Twitter share there, I’d have more time for writing fiction.

What are your best focusing tips? How can I make sure that my time is spent doing things that will result in a higher number in my bank account?

Read More

There Is No Right Answer

Yesterday, I spoke to a potential client on the phone. I may seem old fashioned using the phone but being able to hear someones voice and have an instant conversation is much easier for me. A discussion that would take 30 minutes minimum via email can be done in about 4 minutes on the phone so having business phone solutions suits me well. We had already met in person, exchanged emails, and talked in detail about the work he’s considering paying me to do. His main question yesterday: What’s the difference in a blog and a newsletter?

It was an interesting conversation for lots of reasons. On the surface, the answer to his question seems pretty simple. But his real question, the one he didn’t know how to ask, was different. What he really wanted to know was how to use his blog posts and he email list differently for marketing. He couldn’t quite grasp the difference between subscribing to a blog so that you get an email when there is a new post, and a newsletter. I’m not sure he understood it any better when we hung up.

We have more marketing tools than ever before. Most are easy to access, and many are either free or very low-cost. How do you choose which ones to use? What is going to make the biggest impact in the least amount of

Which of the blooms is the best?

time? (Note: I didn’t say for the least amount of money. These days an investment of time is often more costly than an investment of dollars.)

It depends” is generally not what business people trained during a different era and comfortable with a different set of rules want to hear. They want me to sell them something. They want me to list all the reasons they should use email marketing, or social media, or whatever they are thinking about doing, and make them feel good about it the way someone selling ad space might have done at a different time.

But blog posts are not ads and email newsletters are not direct mail, and social media is not the same as Chamber of Commerce networking events – and ad space is still relevant. The digital marketing tools at your disposal can be used successfully in lots of different ways. Even some different strategies, like following this Pay Per Click Management guide can help you to implement the numerous ideas that digital marketing can offer to help your business to grow and be successful. But your personality, or your brand depending on the size of your organization, plays a huge role in how you should approach marketing. If you prefer a suit and tie, you are probably going to be more comfortable using LinkedIn than Twitter. That’s a broad generalization, but sometimes those are useful.

The individuals who are most successful in digital marketing are not afraid to be who they are, warts and all. If who you are is buttoned-up, perfectly coifed, and pulled together all of the time, then you should choose a niche that celebrates rigidity and formality. Everyone else will most likely find you a little boring. Sorry to be brutal, but it’s true. Humans who make mistakes, laugh, cry, and succeed despite struggles are interesting. They have stories to tell and people like stories.

Ultimately, when combined with innovative digital marketing strategies such as Link Scholars Keyword Ranking SEO Plans, it is important that the personality and message of your brand comes through. Once a potential customer has clicked a link and ended up at your website, they should get a feel for not only your products, but the story behind your company.

I’m still struggling with how to explain clearly, simply, and accurately why my potential client should generate different content for his blog and his newsletter because what he really needs to do is share his story – with an audience likely to find it interesting.

Read More

The 6 Levels of Business Relationships

Level 0:You somehow got my address and decided, since I am breathing, you should pitch me. Or, you happened across me on Twitter and thought that since I returned your “follow” I want to buy something from you. We have no real connection of any kind, and you have no clue what I do for a living, or whether or not I am a member of your target demographic. You are as annoying as the recorded calls about diabetes medicine that I get even though no one in my house is diabetic.


Level 1:
You researched my company online, and you think I might need your services. When we talk, you tell me exactly why you’re calling or emailing, and by the end of the conversation, I will probably know enough about you and your company to decide if we will ever talk again. In other words, at Level 1 we don’t really know each other at all. We just know what’s been presented to the world. We know each others’ masks.

Level 2: A friend suggested we talk. There’s someone who thinks we have something in common, or could learn something from each other. The fact that we both know the person who suggested we meet gives us, at the very least, something to talk about. We still don’t know each other, not really, but we have a starting point and are probably more inclined to trust each other than not – depending on our mutual acquaintance, and their level of trustworthiness.

Level 3: We are connected through social media, and have had several conversations. We haven’t met, but we feel like we know each other a little. Maybe we were outraged by the same thing, share a profession, participate in the same virtual circles, or read the same sorts of books. I may receive your newsletters, or read your blog, and I don’t mind hearing about what your business is doing.

Level 4: We’ve met, at least once, and had a conversation, and then connected on social media, so know one another a little better. We are happy to hear from each other, and look forward to the possibility of meeting again. I’m curious about your work, and send you referrals when the opportunity arises.

Level 5: We see each other regularly at networking or community events. I may have even met your spouse. I am familiar with your work and respect it. I’ve sent you a couple of referrals, and you sometimes leave comments on my blog. We might have traded LinkedIn recommendations, or one of us may have even hired the other to do some work.

Level 6: We are friends. We go to lunch or dinner together once in awhile. We share a mutual professional respect, and do what we can to enhance each other’s business. I trust you to proofread important posts before I click “publish.” We may have even worked on a project together.

 

After attending more networking events than I ever imagined would happen in a lifetime, I’ve found that that Level 4 is pretty comfortable, but Level 5 is where the real referrals come from. It takes time to develop a Level 5 relationship, and if we are at Level 1 and you behave like we are at Level 5, you have blown it.

Obviously, these are just my (introverted) observations. Yours may be different. Did I leave out a level? Would it be better to go into every situation as if the people there were all Level 4 relationships?

Read More