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11 posts from May 2012

May 31, 2012

10,000 Foot View: Strategic Planning For Your Small Business

Entry By Jason Brick

One facet of business ownership is that the small details of the daily grind can be overwhelming. For many entrepreneurs, this means focusing on the little things at the expense of long-range and conceptual planning. This focus on tactics rather than strategy not only affects your company’s growth – it can make running the business less fun and rewarding.

No matter how much of energy your everyday tasks demand, it’s important to step out and look at your company from what productivity guru David Allen calls the “10,000-foot view.” Like a submarine captain peeking through his periscope, this occasional look at the landscape will keep your company on course.

10000-foot-view

The View From Above

Allen calls this the 10,000-foot view because he likens it to looking at a region from an airplane. On the ground, terrain and buildings prevent you from seeing the larger picture. Looking down from above makes the land look like a map. As with all maps, this makes it easier to plot a course.

In your business, the 10,000-foot view takes the largest pieces of your business and your most important goals, and checks to make certain they serve one another.

 

Strategic Goals

Large-framed goals are at the core of this level of business analysis – the destination show on your map. When setting or analyzing goals, it’s important to frame them in a way your people can understand and act upon. To do this, your goals must be:

Concrete – they must define as clearly as possible what success looks like

Reasonable – they must be possible for your team to achieve with the resources you give them

Immediate – even if the end result is long-term, benchmark steps should be reachable within weeks or months

Measurable – they must have some kind of numerical metric to help track progress and effectiveness

Goals lacking these traits are difficult to act on, plan for or hold staff accountable to. Because of this, they also tend to end up incomplete.

 

Choosing Metrics

The best metrics have a number attached to them – in most cases, a date or an amount.

Amount-based metrics are great for production and sales-based projects. Examples include increasing sales by 50 percent, or producing 15,000 units.

Date-based metrics work well for binary projects – those that are either finished or not finished. A presentation ready by the 5th of the month, or a new hire ready to go within two weeks of starting are two examples of this kind.

Many goals can use both types of metric, for example producing 15,000 units by the 1st of June. Whenever possible, applying both to a project gives any strategic goal the best chance for success.

 

Making Time

It can be a challenge to find time for this kind of high-level review when you’re trying to run a company, but it’s vital that you do so. Even if it means working late a few nights a month, you’ll find that this occasional session will save your company time, effort and money over the following quarters. It’s a short-term investment of time and effort that will pay dividends down the road.

May 29, 2012

7 Warnings Your Texts Are Losing Their Punch

Text campaigns often flow like other marketing initiatives. It takes a little while to get traction, then you see a big spike in business. After a while, though, business starts to slump again. 

In print advertising, this can be because the ad has faded from the public eye. In text message marketing, the problem is more often internal. You may be losing momentum on what was once a new and exciting mode. You could be running out of ideas. Whatever the reason, stay on the lookout for these early warning signs that your texts are losing their punch and power. 

Boxing-gloves-punch

  1. Sluggish List Growth -  How fast your list grows is a direct sign of how punchy your SMS messages are. They more they impress subscribers, the more excited they'll be -- and the more they'll bring their friends on board. 
  2. Reduced Coupon Redemption - Coupons are the "killer app" of SMS marketing -- those surprise, real-time offers that bring people to your door today. If people aren't responding to your coupon SMS, it's a good sign they're not paying attention to your other messages. 
  3. Slower Response Times - Unless your SMS program is in serious trouble, you'll get a response or two to all of your broadcasts -- and maybe even many responses. By measuring the time between broadcasting and the first subscriber response, you can gauge how compelling your different messages are. If you're losing your punch, expect them to get longer. 
  4. Test Events - If you're not sure how your messages are doing, re-skin a wildly successful message from last quarter. Look at the response and compare it to before. If your campaign is losing its mojo, the response will be much lower -- despite the practically identical message.
  5. Comparative Analysis - Losing revenue might be due to failure in your other marketing programs. By running the numbers for all of your initiatives side-by-side, you can tell whether the problem is because of, or unique to, your SMS. 
  6. Repeating Yourself - Look at the last 10 to 20 messages you've sent out. Do you detect a theme? Do they consist of the same three templates? This sort of thing means you're running out of ideas -- and practically guarantees your messages are losing punch as you lose your passion.
  7. Bored Employees - How does your team respond when you talk about the SMS campaign? If they're excited, you're probably still going strong. If they're bored, you can bet your subscribers are just as tired of what you're putting out. 

May 25, 2012

Market Like a Rockstar

Entry By Jason Brick

Celebrities cheat when it comes to social media and text marketing. In most cases, they didn’t start their media presence until after they became famous. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber didn’t build a cohort of over 20 million Twitter followers each. They built a fanatic fan base, and then announced their Twitter feed.

Rock Star Poster

Despite this, we can look at the techniques of some celebrities to learn about the care and feeding of our media subscribers. Some are examples of flawlessly using universal best practices, while others take unique approaches that we can also use to get the job done:

  • The News Feed
    Singer/songwriter of geek hits like “RE: Your Brains” and “Skullcrusher Mountain,” Jonathan Coulton built his personal brand through Internet promotion. He uses Twitter as a news center, updating fans about tour dates, new songs, videos on YouTube and updates to his other social media projects. He also observes the primary rule of “be funny or useful” – which comes naturally to him since his songs are primarily comedic.
  • The Importance of Conversation
    A music celebrity from the 80s, MC Hammer maintains a following of over 2.6 million over 20 years later by mastering the conversation aspect of social media. He quickly responds to followers who comment on his tweets, and will hold an entire chat with fans via his feed. This also makes him one of the more prolific social media posters, with even a brief chat meaning a dozen or more updates.
  • Multi-Platform Magic
    Former “Star Trek” star and current geek activist Wil Wheaton tweets, blogs and Facebooks in an interlinked mass that ensures followers never settle for just one outlet. Growing your brand relies on the synergy of multiple platforms, so business owners from all industries can learn from Wil’s example. Coulton from the above example is also an expert at this aspect of social media.
  • Using the Street Team
    The Ultimate Fighting Championship is one of the fastest growing professional sports organizations in the world. Rather than spending a lot of time having management use social media, the organization pays its athletes bonuses for social media presence – both for quantity and for creativity and quality.
  • Be Engaging
    Vin Diesel has no reason to stay engaged and authentic on his Facebook page – in fact many of his peers hire assistants to post for them. But he consistently posts engaging updates and takes time to respond personally when fans comment back. As a result, he has over 7 million fans on his page and thousands of responses for each post – making him the leading celebrity on Facebook.

May 23, 2012

SMS Marketing Best Practices

Whether you’re new to SMS Marketing or are an old pro, there are a few must-dos and must-no-dos that are worth reviewing. While ever marketing campaign is different, you’re guaranteed to strike out if you don’t follow these best practices.

Sms marketing best practices

If you're looking to learn about SMS Marketing, our resource center is a great place to begin. Small Business Owner? Check out our series of small business marketing tips.

SMS Marketing Best Practices:

  • Do Not Send Messages To People Who Didn’t Give You Permission
    Never, ever send messages to people who have not opted-in to receive your text messages. Doing so is illegal – and carries stiff fines. Moreover, SMS Marketing is so powerful because it is permission-based. When you send messages to customers who want to hear from you you’ll get awesome response rates. Sending messages to people who don’t want to hear from you? At best you annoy potential customers and lose their business; at worst you wind up with a lawsuit.
  • Do Advertise Your Keyword Call-To-Action In All Of Your Marketing Materials
    In order to send your marketing texts to people who want to hear from your business, you need to give people a way to opt-in to receive your messages. How does that happen? The fastest, most effective way for a consumer to opt-in to an SMS Marketing campaign is by texting a Keyword to a Short Code. It works like this: Text Joes to 313131 for Coupons & more from Joe’s Pizza!

    You’ll want to add your Keyword Call-To-Action to your print materials, mention it on social media, and if you have them, in your TV & Radio spots. You also need to make sure you advertise your Call-To-Action in a MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) compliant manner. That means including opt-out instructions and more:

    Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to Opt-Out. Text HELP for Terms & Conditions. Up to 6 messages per month
  • Do Incentivize Your Call-To-Action
    The easiest way to encourage opt-ins is to give people a reason to opt-in. Mention in this in your call-to-action - Text Joes to 313131 for 25% Off Your Next Order - and in the confirmation text: “Thanks for Joining Joe’s Pizza Text list. Show this text to your server for 25% Off!”
  • Do Not Send Messages Unless You Have Value To Offer
    Just because Americans send trillions of text messages every year, doesn’t mean you should spray constant messages at your list of contacts. First, many people still pay per text. Second, who wants to be shouted out constantly. Sending messages every day is a sure way to a flood of opt-outs. Every business is different, but as a baseline 4 messages/month is usually a good number. Think about it like this: you worked hard for your opt-ins, so don’t give them a reason to opt-out. If you don’t have something valuable to offer (a coupon, exciting news, something that you only get via mobile) resist the urge to send a worthless message.
  • Do Make Sure It’s Easy To Opt Out
    Why would you want to make it easy to opt-out? This goes back to the first item on this list –SMS Marketing is permission-based. For many people, part of the reason they allow you to text them is because they know just how easy it is to opt-out if they tire of your messages. You pay for every message you send (not a lot, but those pennies can add up!); you only want to send messages to people who want to hear from you. Reply STOP to opt-out!
  • Do Measure Your Results
     As we wrote in a previous post: “Track your subscription lists, broadcast times and response rates for each message you send. Use the data to learn what kinds of messages, broadcast timing and other aspects work best for your target market.” If you’re running a campaign that includes web links make sure to use a link shortener like bit.ly that allows you to track clicks!

May 22, 2012

SMS Text Messaging Is Still Not Dead Yet

SMS-still-not-deadMany writers and pundits have been calling for and claiming the death of SMS for well over a year now. iMessage, GroupMe, BBM, Facebook, you name it - they're all supposed to kill of plain old SMS. Has SMS growth been slowing worldwide? Absolutely. Has it even begun to pull back in some countries. Yes. How about the US?

Not so much - according to CTIA's latest (Dec 2011) survey: SMS sent and received: 2.304 trillion 2010: 2.052 trillion (12 percent increase).


Check out more wireless stats over at the CTIA blog.

7 Secrets of Top-Notch Text Message Marketers

Entry By Jason Brick

The difference between an amateur and a professional is that pros know tricks that make their time worth the money they charge. What might take you a week to come up with and execute is a ten-minute standard practice for the best people in any field.

Top-secret1
If you're handling your business's text message marketing campaign on your own, you could do worse than to adopt some of the top professional tricks of the trade. If you're hiring out, you may want to check and confirm that your text marketing guy knows at least some of these secrets.

  1. Always Leave an Exit This may seem counter-intuitive -- why would you want to make it easy for subscribers to leave? In fact, seeing the option to unsubscribe motivates people to receive and read your messages. This also cuts down on "false positive" statistics, so you know your subscriber list consists mostly of qualified leads.
  2. Use Time Limits If your SMS broadcast includes a discount, coupon or similar offer, give it a time limit and make it short. A 10AM broadcast could contain a coupon good only for the lunch hour. This makes the calls to action real and relevant, and lets you track performance in real time.
  3. Cross-Promote Mention your SMS campaign on your web page, social media and in print advertising. Mention all three occasionally in your SMS broadcasts. Like most other marketing initiatives, SMS creates synergy when used with other modalities.
  4. More Isn't Always Better If you're putting out interesting, entertaining and relevant content every single time, there's no limit to how many messages your subscribers will happily receive --- but doing that consistently is rarely realistic. If you have to choose between quantity and quality, always opt for a handful of top-notch broadcasts. 
  5. Feel Free to Steal Although you must respect copyright laws, don't be shy about borrowing hit concepts any time you find them. Some great sources include your competition, print media, greeting cards, t-shirts and bumper stickers. 
  6. Use a Content Calendar Content calendars mean dedicating enough time and thought to a campaign to make it work. It turns what's often a last-minute afterthought into a dedicated process, while simultaneously generating ideas for each broadcast. From a note in Google calendars to a fully realized production schedule, this is one of the most powerful tools pro SMS marketers use. 
  7. Track Your Results Some SMS people will try to tell you that it's not a measurable media -- mostly because they don't want you measuring the job you pay them for. Track your subscription lists, broadcast times and response rates for each message you send. Use the data to learn what kinds of messages, broadcast timing and other aspects work best for your target market. 

7 Secrets of Top-Notch Text Marketers

May 14, 2012

Extreme Home Page Makeover

Entry By Jason Brick

Makeover

 

One of the best ways to ruin a company is to have excellent marketing and terrible service. Similarly, you can spoil some of the best text message marketing by having it lead to a second-rate website (check here for mobile web design tips!).

Some Web concepts vary from market to market, industry to industry -- but others are the same whether you're selling legal advice or custom widgets. Does your site violate any of these best home page practices?

 

Keep it Simple

The KISS principal applies to electronic advertising just as it does to print. You can have a lot of information, even complex information, spread over several pages -- just keep the elements on any given page to a minimum.

Avoid the Dreaded Text Wall

Break up any text on your page with bullet points, subheads and line breaks. The human brain reads words on a screen differently than on paper. Make it easy to skim through your content, since that's what your reader's body wants to do.

Use High Quality, Legal Graphics

A photo, chart or other pictorial element does a lot to make a page stand out and get read -- but don't just use any old graphic. A bad photo is worse than no photo at all. So are stolen photos. No matter how easy it is to download and use a random photo from the Web, somebody is bound to notice. Use graphics only with permission and proper attribution.

Love Your FAQ and About Pages

On many sub-par websites, these informational pages are obviously an afterthought: generic and thin marketing information recast from a brochure. The best sites embrace these sections as a way to break free of the anonymity of web commerce. Be informative, fun, even quirky with these. Let your personality and company culture shine through.

Limit Options

It's tempting to load your site with widgets, games and acres of content. Though this works for a few content-based business models, most of the time those extras simply distract visitors. Always remember the goal of your page, and offer few -- if any -- options that lead readers away from that goal.

Post Your Contact Info Proudly

The purpose of your page is to get prospective customers to become paying clients. They can't do that without knowing how to contact you. Whether that contact is personal communication, or an anonymous Internet purchase, make it clear and easy how to make that happen. Don't hide these options at the bottom of a text wall or behind several click-thrus.

May 11, 2012

7 Time-Savers for Busy Business Owners

Entry By Jason Brick

If you're like most business owners, you're faced with a three-point problem.

  1. You need to allocate as much of your time as possible on the activities that help grow your business.
  2. You spend too much of your time working on menial tasks. 
  3. Training another employee to do these menial tasks would take too long. 

Unless something changes, 1 plus 2 plus 3 equals long hours and slow progress. What you need is more time in each day. To get there, consider one or more of these simple small business time savers. 

Stopwatch

1. Take 10 Minutes to Plan Every Evening

Ten minutes of planning can mean more than an hour of extra productivity over the course of a day. This is one of the simplest and most rewarding time investments you can make. Better still, by planning in the evening, you put your worries in order to you can focus on "you time" and your family after hours.

2. Check Email and Voicemail Only Occasionally

Many -- probably most -- business owners check messages like they'll disappear if they’re not picked up in the first five minutes. A spare moment means opening the browser or picking up the handset -- followed by losing 20 minutes or more answering whatever they find. Nearly all of those messages won't be hurt by waiting a few hours. Schedule time to check messages, and save other times for other tasks.

3. Close Your Door

Interruptions are a constant in a business owner's life, and it can take as much as 30 minutes to return to productivity after each one. When you're "on mission," don't be afraid to close your door. Your employees will open it in true emergencies, but figure out the little things for themselves.

4. Automate Bills

Paying bills can take several hours each business month, but free banking tools can get handle them automatically while simultaneously reducing your postage and stationery costs. Automatic bill pay also improves your company's credit, allowing you access to new resources.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Working sleep-deprived makes everything take longer, even if your groggy mind doesn't make mistakes. Seven to nine hours of sleep is simply better for your business than trying to "power through" on less.

6. Exercise in the Morning

Exercise at any time of day improves your productivity by increasing your energy, awareness and focus. Scheduling exercise time in the morning means you'll actually get a chance to do it. By afternoon or evening, it's easy for unplanned emergencies to force you to cancel your gym time. If you exercise first thing, the rest of the day doesn't have a chance to interfere.

7. Delegate Adventurously

It's likely that at least half of your people are able to perform at least half of your tasks. The trick is to trust them to do it well, and trust yourself not to go nuts while they learn. Take the risk of letting your best people take on more responsibility. The rewards greatly outweigh the risks.

Beyond just delegating around the office, you can also take the next step and begin outsourcing some of the work you’ve been shouldering. If you’re president, CEO and marketing manager, it’s time to look into bringing on a partner to take some of the burden. Though we hate to admit it, if you’re handling 10 different job titles, you’re probably not suited to all of them. Let people who know what they’re doing take over, and you’ll likely see higher-quality materials come out of the office. If you can’t bring in other people, look for time saving tools like email, social and text message marketing services.

May 09, 2012

6 Magic Words for Effective Marketing Copy

Entry By Jason Brick

Keywords are part of every effective SMS, text and mobile marketing strategy. They're an integral part of success for blogging and social media. Every modern media mogul knows this fact.

But not everybody knows that keywords have existed long before the days of search engines and text message marketing. In marketing ages past, these keywords elicited emotional reactions in human readers and listeners -- stimulating them to buy the same way modern SEO stimulates Google to list a site.

Magic

Adding these keywords to your mobile message can make each broadcast and web page more effective, generating greater turnover and more social media shares. You can find lists of thousands of marketing "power words," but six of them are marketing royalty.

New
This word has two meanings, depending on how you use it -- and sometimes means both at once. "New" can refer to the product, implying that buyers are hip, mode and ahead of the curve. It can also refer to your company, promising change to people who were disappointed in the past. Either way, the result is sales for you.

Free
"Free" works even when you don't offer anything for free in the advertisement. Simply using the word draws and keeps eyes on the page. People will also go to incredible expense to qualify for something free...as evidenced by a restaurant chain's coupons for $1.00 off a meal when you buy a $1.29 side dish.

Secret
People like to feel superior to others, and what's more indisputably superior than knowing what everybody else doesn't? Promising secret knowledge, insider information or privileged access to goods and prices brings people in. This works especially well in the mobile age, when you can give inside looks at your business to subscribers.

Expert
Experts say that people are more likely to believe information attributed to an expert than information without a stated source, even when there's no information about said expert and his or her credentials. These experts can give detailed information on your product, and recommend it because of their knowledge base.

Power
A magic word if ever there was one, using this word in your copy implies that your product or service will give power to a customer. Whether that's power over their finances, their clutter or the 'heartbreak of teenage acne,’ strangers will become customers in its pursuit.

Money Back
This can be a guarantee, offering a refund if customer's aren't satisfied. It can also be bait for a rewards program. Like "free," it implies customers can get something for nothing.

May 07, 2012

8 Reasons Not To Ignore Your Print Marketing

Entry By Jason Brick

Text message marketing is so cheap, widespread and effective that it's tempting to abandon print marketing altogether. This is a good move sometimes -- think about the last time you thumbed through the yellow pages -- but other print marketing still has some life in it. Consider these factors before jettisoning every piece of "dead tree" marketing in your campaign.

Newspaper

1. Print Shows Up Where It's Least Expected

Digital pop-up ads aren't asked for, but most people expect them when they appear. SMS broadcasts and similar messages are typically opted into, which makes them even more expected. Expected is appreciated, but can often mean ignored. You can place print ads to catch people by surprise and snare new customers.

2. Print Is Flexible

Mobile messaging shows up on a cell phone, on a small screen, often with limits to the character count and file size. Print ads can strut your stuff in detail, with high-resolution photos and plenty of room for a testimonial or three. This is also true of your website, but your website can't go outside.

3. Print Carries Authority

For some reason, people trust things they see in print. They trust a book by an amateur more than a speech by a professional, and a newspaper more than a website. This perception might change over the next decade, but for now it's a marketing fact.

4. Print Is Starving

Companies that used to make huge profits with print advertising are feeling the pinch from mobile modes. This means you can afford some truly impressive print campaigns -- options that simply weren't available in a small business budget even five years ago.

5. Synergy Is King

A powerful mobile and Internet campaign can get customer attention, but not as much as mobile combined with something else. People retain information best when they receive it from different modes of communication. Print is the least expensive of the other main options, coming in substantially cheaper than radio and television.

6. You Can Read Print While Driving

Thirty-five states say it's illegal to read texts while driving a car -- and for good reason. No state says it's illegal to read a billboard, roadside sign, vehicle wrap or bumper sticker...or even that magazine ad on the passenger seat.

7. Print Is Immersive

Studies show that people skim digital content, but they sit down and read print. Use your mobile campaign to foster interest in your company, but print to give them the details of why you're a great value.

8. Print Sticks Around

Look at that one corner of your desk, that one drawer in your kitchen and probably the magnet-covered part of your fridge. If you're like most people, they're filled with advertisements, coupons and flyers from businesses. Many of them are months, even years, old. Those print ads can generate customers long after a mobile message would have been deleted.