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12 posts from April 2012

April 30, 2012

E-books and Podcasts: Business Education with No Time Footprint

Entry By Jason Brick

Learning and growing are vital parts of success in small business. Without education, you fall behind the competition. It's well worth the money for tuition. For many business owners, the problem with education is time. Entrepreneurial schedules are so packed that it seems impossible to make room to become better at what you do. 

Enter e-books and podcasts, two solutions you can use without impacting your daily schedule. They're not the same as an MBA course or seminar series, but they'll keep you up to speed as you're dashing through the tasks of managing your business.

Time
Podcasts
For the five readers who don't yet know what they are, podcasts are like radio programs you can download on demand and listen to when you want. You can put the file on your computer, smartphone or mp3 player. 

This means you can listen to them at any time, especially while:

  • Driving
  • Exercising 
  • Doing manual, menial tasks 
  • Running errands

No matter what your industry, you can find a podcast about it. People also record podcasts about business basics, marketing strategy, organization, human resources, and any business-related topic you feel you should learn more about.

You can get podcasts from the iTunes store, directly from the creator, or from various podcast indexes.

E-Books
Just as podcasts are the 21st century's answer to radio, the e-book is the modern world's print publication. They're files you can read on your computer, tablet, app phone or e-reader. 

It may seem like this options takes just as much time as traditional print media, but it has one advantage: You can set most readers to convert the text of an e-book to voice. It's sometimes a disjointed computer voice that sounds like talking to HAL's younger brother, but you can still listen to them like audiobooks. 

One of the best sources of e-books is reading the blogs of industry experts. Nearly all of them offer a free or inexpensive e-book in exchange for subscribing. Though these are often just the basics of that expert's knowledge, most of them include at least a few facts or tips you haven't thought of.

Bonus
Once you've consumed a few e-books and podcasts, you'll be temped to make one of your own. Do not resist this temptation. Experts put these out for a reason -- in the new knowledge economy, they're one of the best ways to promote a business. 

Including yours.

----

Check out our SMS Marketing For Small Business eBook now!

Entry By Jason Brick

Learning and growing are vital parts of success in small business. Without education, you fall behind the competition. It's well worth the money for tuition. For many business owners, the problem with education is time. Entrepreneurial schedules are so packed that it seems impossible to make room to become better at what you do. 

Enter e-books and podcasts, two solutions you can use without impacting your daily schedule. They're not the same as an MBA course or seminar series, but they'll keep you up to speed as you're dashing through the tasks of managing your business. 

Podcasts

For the five readers who don't yet know what they are, podcasts are like radio programs you can download on demand and listen to when you want. You can put the file on your computer, smartphone or mp3 player. 

This means you can listen to them at any time, especially while:

    Driving

    Exercising 

    Doing manual, menial tasks 

    Running errands

 

No matter what your industry, you can find a podcast about it. People also record podcasts about business basics, marketing strategy, organization, human resources, and any business-related topic you feel you should learn more about.

You can get podcasts from the iTunes store, directly from the creator, or from various podcast indexes.

E-Books

Just as podcasts are the 21st century's answer to radio, the e-book is the modern world's print publication. They're files you can read on your computer, tablet, app phone or e-reader. 

It may seem like this options takes just as much time as traditional print media, but it has one advantage: You can set most readers to convert the text of an e-book to voice. It's sometimes a disjointed computer voice that sounds like talking to HAL's younger brother, but you can still listen to them like audiobooks. 

One of the best sources of e-books is reading the blogs of industry experts. Nearly all of them offer a free or inexpensive e-book in exchange for subscribing. Though these are often just the basics of that expert's knowledge, most of them include at least a few facts or tips you haven't thought of. 

Bonus

Once you've consumed a few e-books and podcasts, you'll be temped to make one of your own. Do not resist this temptation. Experts put these out for a reason -- in the new knowledge economy, they're one of the best ways to promote a business. 

Including yours.

April 27, 2012

Nancy Lublin: Texting that saves lives (TED Talk)

Here's an inspiring TED Talk about the power of text messaging:

When Nancy Lublin started texting teenagers to help with her social advocacy organization, what she found was shocking -- they started texting back about their own problems, from bullying to depression to abuse. So she's setting up a text-only crisis line, and the results might be even more important than she expected.

Watch the video above or head over to TED.com to watch - it's five-and-a-half minutes well worth your time.

April 26, 2012

What The Terminator Can Teach Us About Mobile Marketing

Entry By Jason Brick

“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

Those are the words of Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor's savior/mentor in “The Terminator.” In that movie, a robot goes back in time to kill a woman before she can give birth to the general who will win a war against the robots for humans some time in the future.

Watching “The Terminator” can teach you many things about science fiction, good movie making, and why you should never program your VCR. Watching a terminator in action, though, can teach you some keys to sms marketing success. 

The-terminator-1-1024-1

Be Methodical
For the handful of people who have never seen this movie, the terminator arrived in 1980 with a city name, a target's name and instructions to kill the target. Without full information, it went through the phone book, killing people with that name in alphabetical order. 

Don't -- repeat, don't -- kill people as part of your marketing strategy. Do apply that level of organization and systematization to your mobile initiative. The more you make it a habit or system, the better results you'll see.

Small things Accumulate Into Big Results
The "stinger" idea in “The Terminator” is that a human soldier sent back in time from the war became the father of the general he was sent to protect. In the sequel, we learned that parts from the robot that were sent back in time inspired the research that created robots capable of attacking humans. Little things add up, and often have unintended consequences.

Mobile marketing works under the same rules. One message won't change your sales overnight -- but a year of consistent mobile marketing can. Stay consistent, remain methodical, keep your patience and watch your revenue grow.

Never Stop Learning
In the various movies of this franchise, various characters accomplish their goals after picking up new skills. They learn from survivalists, criminals, police and each other. Education and the value of positive change are central themes of the movies.

Learning is just as important to your text message marketing campaign -- especially since this new modality is evolving in real time right in front of us. Subscribe to blogs like this one, industry podcasts and print magazines to stay abreast of how to best use your mobile investment.

Sequels Matter
The “Terminator” franchise is now at four movies and two seasons of a television show. Although everything after “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is arguably of inferior quality, they still rake in millions with every iteration. The power of the first movies keeps people coming back.

If you have a wildly successful mobile message, capitalize on the success. Re-skin it for a similar event the next month. Send new offers to those who took advantage of the first. Re-broadcast an encore performance. If it worked once, it will work again.

April 25, 2012

Get Our SMS Marketing For Small Business eBook Now!

Head over to Amazon today to grab your copy of SMS Marketing For Small Businesses for your Kindle. We've packed together 67 pages of awesome, actionable SMS Marketing advice.

Ebook-cover

If you don't have a Kindle we'll be release the eBook as an EPUB and a PDF in the coming weeks - so stay tuned. For now, get it at Amazon.

April 23, 2012

SMS Text Messaging on the Campaign Trail

Entry By Jason Brick

Every four years, the U.S. gets exciting. In just 12 months' time, we get Leap Day, the Summer Olympics and a Presidential Election. Things get kind of crazy. Marketing experts have advised -- and learned from -- Presidential campaigns for decades. This time around, mobile marketers get to do the same thing. Check out these brilliant, interesting and amusing examples of text messaging campaigns at all levels of government.

Sms-on-the-campaign-trail

During the 2008 Obama campaign, the announcement of Joe Biden as running mate didn't come from a press release; it came via text message. It reached 10 million recipients, from key media figures to campaign supporters.

From the President to the Tea Party to grassroots activists, text and SMS communication has been key in creating "flash mobs" and organizing demonstrations and public events.

Bill Dudley, a group director for mobile powerhouse Sybase365, went public chiding both parties for still using robocalls instead of text-based campaigns, calling the older method "so 1990s."

Michele Bachmann was the first candidate of 2012 to use an active SMS campaign. Though she was far from the front runner, her efforts included the foresight to include among keywords all the common misspellings of her name.

Microtargeting -- sending niche messages to subsets of supporters -- has been part of election strategy for Democrats, Republicans and minor parties for decades. Text message has become part of this strategy since the 2004 election. 

Younger voters, those in the 18 to 30 year range, are particular targets of SMS campaigns by the major parties. It's seen as a way to involve a group that's often considered less politically engaged than older voters. 

In Jefferson City, Missouri, Senate Candidate Robin Carnahan used small, graffiti-like signs in bathrooms to collect opt-ins for her 2010 text campaign. "Text FLUSH to Robin" is an example. 

California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman offered a free hat to anybody who could text in the answer to "Which California team has won the most College World Series?"

As of this spring, analysts note that the presidential campaigns are strong on social networking and web presence, but haven't yet capitalized on the full potential of SMS. Don't make that mistake with your own marketing plan.

April 18, 2012

Spring-Themed Text Message Coupons (Mobile Couponing Ideas)

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. Note – For some general Spring Themed SMS Marketing ideas check out last week’s post.

SMS marketing is still new enough that the best practices are still evolving. Despite this, a few things have already been identified as generating exceptional responses. Among them are coupons and messages tied to a specific event or holiday.

The smartest text marketers combine these practices by broadcasting coupons tied to the time of year. This spring, try a few of these seasonal offers to bring in customers and new subscribers.

Spring-coupons

Spring Cleaning
Retailers can use the venerable "spring cleaning" bug as an excuse to offer discounts on items related to cleaning, organization and home improvement. Don't be afraid to stretch the point -- your restaurant can offer a "lunch break" discount to anybody bringing in evidence of their cleaning efforts.

Mothers' and Fathers' Day
These holidays simply scream "buy one/get one" with the discount going to anybody bringing in the appropriate parent -- but that's not the only way to cash in on these consumer holidays. Bars can offer a "Dad's Day Happy Hour." Massage parlors and spas can treat moms. Vice versa works just as well. Get creative: very few business models are impossible to turn into a parent holiday treat. 

Easter
This is a family holiday for much of the country, so restaurants can offer kids' discounts or similar deals intended to bring in the largest groups. Discounts on Easter basket goodies are also a good deal.

Other Holidays
Besides the big three, other holidays all give an excuse for a thematically linked (and time-sensitive) coupon offer:

  • April 16th -- Patriots' Day
  • April 22nd -- Earth Day
  • Last Friday of April -- Arbor Day
  • 3rd Saturday of May -- Armed Forces Day
  • May 28th -- Memorial Day
  • June 14th -- Flag Day

The season also has its fill of awareness and observance weeks -- more than one per day. Some favorites include American Red Cross Month (March), World Poetry Day (March 21st), Community Service Month (April) and Screen-Free Week (3rd Week in April).

Prom Night
Most communities go big for prom. It can be a huge moneymaker for local businesses. To stand out, change your focus from party time to safety. This can range from discounts on safety-related items to free side dishes or drinks for teens who prove they stayed sober.

Graduation
Most people know at least one grad every given spring. Your coupons to help celebrate can focus on congratulations for graduating students or help with loved ones looking to buy inexpensive gifts.

April 16, 2012

The Art of Delegation

Entry By Jason Brick

Are you a victim of the "entrepreneurial no-time cycle?"

  • Step 1: Your business doesn't make enough money to bring on new staff.
  • Step 2: You spend too much of your time on menial tasks that you never have time to grow your business.
  • Step 3: Go back to Step 1.

If so, you're not alone. This routine is among the top reasons business owners spend years exhausting themselves for less money than they'd make working nine-to-five for someone else. You can break this cycle in only one way: delegating the work at a cost you can afford (and don't forget about your Org Chart!).

Using Your Existing Work Force

For most employers, the trouble isn't finding people who can do simple jobs -- it's trusting them to do it. Some even hire people to do certain tasks, but never get around to training them or empowering them to do it. Look at the people all around you, and find those you can lean on without overworking them. 

OverworkedFinding Great Contractors

Never hire a full-time employee when a part-timer will do, and never hire a generalist if you can get a specialist for a reasonable budget. This is where contractors come in. Websites like oDesk and eLance can put you in touch with the perfect person for a specific job, who you only have to hire for as long as that job takes. 

Your Street Team

Many businesses have a network of fans -- die-hard customers who love not just your product, but the business itself. In many cases, these fans would consider it a privilege to help you out; they'd happily do something in exchange for a discount, or even a mention in your next text broadcast. These guys are especially great for social media marketing, one of the most frequent medalists in the "time-consuming stuff entrepreneurs don't want to deal with" Olympics.  

Assessment

Always inspect what you expect. When delegating work to any source, it's important to clearly define what you need and to hold that worker accountable for results. If you don't, you're not truly delegating -- you're deserting. Whatever the task is, even simple things you think require no explanation, set out your expectations clearly and arrange specific times to review performance, answer questions and make any changes to ensure your worker's success. This will take some time out of your schedule, but should take less time than keeping the task you assigned on your own to-do list. 

April 11, 2012

What Happens In Vegas...May First Begin With A Text

Entry By Angela Stringfellow

We’ve all heard the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” But did you know that sometimes those Vegas escapades all start with a text message?

In fact, Vegas vendors are taking advantage of mobile campaigns in full force. SMS Marketing campaigns are helping tourists navigate their way through the organized chaos that is Vegas.

Vegas

But, it doesn’t just start when you land. Southwest Airlines, one of the leading carriers flying into the local airport, allows its passengers to sign up for mobile alerts, giving them exact flight information and reminders leading up to departure. For the travelers who want to start their vacation before they even leave their home state, this is a great way to enjoy a few cocktails in the airport bar without worrying about missing the flight.


SMS campaigns offer discounts to hotel-specific guests

Once in Vegas, it’s easy to be dazzled by the bright lights and glitter, and it’s more than easy to blow your budget. But many of the hotels and their spas and restaurants offer discounts and promos specifically for their guests and mobile users via SMS campaigns. In fact, guests at Caesar’s Palace, and others owned by its parent company, including Harrahs, Paris, Planet Hollywood and Rio, may find themselves enjoying an unexpected and discounted spa treatment just by signing up.

A trip to Vegas isn’t complete without seeing at least one show, but tickets can be pricey. Along the strip, discount tickets are available through Tix4Tonight, which sells limited quantities of tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis for some of the most popular playbills throughout Vegas. Savvy tourists can sign up for mobile alerts, which allow them to skip the long lines with VIP passes, offers extra discounts and daily specials available only to mobile users. In some cases, the savings can be quite significant.


Mobile is everywhere

Even the notorious “marketers” lining the strip handing out information on an escort services are utilizing mobile campaigns. Tourists can utilize the QR codes found on the t-shirts to learn more about the “products” being offered. In some cases, the cards include SMS opportunities for more information.  

These “marketers” are not the only ones using QR codes, as many of the shops throughout the strip supplement their advertising with the little black boxes. 

In a city like Las Vegas, where things happen in the blink of an eye, employing SMS and mobile campaigns can help tourists better their experience and help businesses distinguish themselves among the hubbub. Plus, since a repeat visit to Vegas is almost a necessity, SMS campaigns can help remind tourists after they’re home of all that there is to see and do and provide greater incentives to return.

April 09, 2012

Spring-Themed SMS Marketing Promotions

Entry By Jason Brick

Changing seasons offer great opportunities for topical, time-sensitive SMS broadcasts--which any reader of this blog knows are the best kind of text marketing message. Spring is no exception, with its fair share of thematic excuses to reach out to your subscribers with a new call to action.

Springsms

  • Holidays are natural SMS idea-fodder, allowing you to send eerily similar messages with just a change to the title and tag line. Holidays for spring include April Fool's Day (April 1), Easter and surrounding holidays (vary each year), Earth Day (April 22), Arbor Day (Last Friday in April), May Day (April 1) and Mother's Day (2nd Sunday in May).
  • Awareness Days are similar to holidays, but typically last longer -- a month or a week. These can mean a series of topical posts, including links to mobile sites with more information. Some representative examples include National Women's History Month (March) and National Summer Safety Week (1st week of May).
  • Spring Cleaning offers a chance to offer advice, organizational products and services that can help subscribers with their cleaning efforts. If you don't offer anything like that, you can offer coupons to help people escape from -- or reward themselves for -- their tasks.
  • Spring Forward. A simple text reminding people to adjust their clocks can combine with any number of calls to action, depending on what your company offers.
  • Outdoor Activities start popping up on people's calendars as spring warms the weather. You can send broadcasts for everything from offering related goods to organizing an outdoor event promoting your company.
  • Spring Break is a key time for businesses in a college town, and for those that market to families. A celebratory countdown in the week before, followed by special promotions and events throughout the vacation, can keep you in customers' minds even as their routine shifts.
  • St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo have special meanings to specific segments of the population, but have become "any excuse for a drink" days for many other people. Since they're tied to American subcultures, you can combine your offers with some trivia about Ireland or Mexico.

Remember to retool your best performers from the winter season. A particularly effective New Year greeting could turn into a message about how nature is waking up. Your Valentine's Day couples celebration could become a Mother's Day treat. Review your top SMS campaigns from previous seasons to see what you can "skin" for the season of flowers and gentle rain.

April 04, 2012

Sharpening the Saw: A Small Business Owner's Guide to Self-Care

Entry By Jason Brick

Owning a small business combines some of the worst aspects of being an employee and being a parent. Your time is not your own, demands on your energy are constant and you face an ever-accumulating pile of tasks.

831408-20-hand-sawUnder this onslaught of responsibility, it’s easy for business owners to burn themselves out servicing the needs of their companies. This situation may feel like the only option, but it's one of the fastest ways to sabotage your company's growth -- and your enjoyment of the entrepreneurial lifestyle.

The happiest and most successful business owners understand that they are their business's most valuable asset. By following some basic rules, you can make sure that your best asset is cared for and maintained.

 

Look for Opportunities to Delegate

It's likely that half or more of the things you take personal responsibility for could be handled by a trusted employee or a new hire. You might want to hold on to the responsibility out of a need for control, or feeling like you lack the time to train somebody -- but both of these are illusions. Delegation frees you to focus on the key tasks for growing your business. 

 

Schedule Your Time In the Morning

You need time to exercise, relax, read for fun and spend time with friends. Schedule that time early in the morning. As the day progresses, emergencies may arise or you might fall behind schedule. When that happens, you'll be tempted to skip your "you time." If you pay yourself first in this way, you'll be done with your personal time before anything can interrupt. 

 

Get Adequate Sleep

Skipping on sleep might seem to save time, but this is an illusion. If you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, you'll be more productive while awake than if you got less. This productivity means you'll get more done -- and do it better -- than if you were awake for more hours while sleep deprived. 

 

Take Time for Scheduling

Scheduling your work and time will take 10 or 15 minutes each day -- and reward you with as much as two hours of extra productivity. Scheduling your months, weeks and days means less time wondering what to do, and smart workflow for your ongoing projects. There are dozens of free and inexpensive scheduling apps available for your smart phone, tablet and desktop. 

 

Practice Saying "No"

The late Steve Jobs said that time management is the art of saying "no." Remember that your time is one of your business's most valuable assets. You don't give away product just to be polite, so you shouldn't do the same with your time. Saying "no" can mean not taking on more projects, not “pitching in” with menial tasks and refusing to interrupt your work for a phone call.