Outbound Marketing-has the ship sailed?

Want to run a TV ad, a radio spot, a print ad, send a direct mail piece or conduct a telemarketing campaign?

Go ahead, I’ll tune you out but maybe some other demographics will still tune in. You can hope people are paying attention. Then you can hope the people that are paying attention need what you do or sell. Then you can hope the people paying attention, who need what you do or sell, pick you over somebody else.

You’re going against the grain though:

Tivo, DVR, Hulu, Netflix, minimalists canceling cable or TV altogether, people playing video games instead of watching TV, poor TV ratings, diffusion with 8 million niche cable channels, Itunes, Podcasts, Pandora, Satellite radio, radio stations already boring you with too many commercials,  newspaper circulations down, newspapers and magazines going out of business, this thing called Google, people tossing junk mail, people not opening mail, high postage costs, mail delivery being downsized, automated answering systems, caller id, no home phone lines, gatekeepers who are just as busy as the decision makers, information overload, clutter, clutter and more clutter and did I mention people are busy and don’t want to be interrupted.

If you’re just another “me too” business, then I guess you can just keep doing the same old thing until it’s beyond frustrating and beyond budget. Or you could try inbound marketing?

4 things your small business should blog about

At Simplified Solutions, we help people tell their stories online and we use tools like WordPress and Twitter. One of my graphic design buddies gave me the title Chief Storyteller (obviously hacked from Chief Shoe-giver ala Tom’s shoes) when he was designing my latest business card. The title stuck and leads to a grin whenever someone sees it

We get the pleasure of telling the stories of some amazing businesses each and every day. A friend of mine Ron Stuart coined the phrase embedded reporter and it really does communicate what we do. We use new media to assist small businesses who have primarily used word of mouth to grow their businesses. Inbound marketing works well for word of mouth businesses, but not so well for those accustomed to interruption based outbound media. When those businesses use new media it often reminds me of Seth Godin’s book, Meatball Sundae. Your company needs to be built or changed to work with new media. When you simply put new media on top of an old business model you get whip cream and cherries on top of meatballs. Not too appetizing and a waste of money.

So when we do our embedded reporting, what exactly do “we” communicate:

(“we” is a team approach and collaborative effort- not just ghost blogging)

  1. We write about their story and their uniqueness. If they are just another “me too business” there is not much we can do to spread a boring story.
  2. We write about keywords that customers may use to find them on Google. We do it in a genuine way. We want to fish where the fish are. If we have what they are looking for, then we want to be johnny on the spot.
  3. We do educational marketing. We ask the sales team, the estimators, the marketing folks and the owner; what don’t prospects understand about your service, your process or your product? Then we craft content that educates.
  4. We have fun. We write about fun things. We mix it up a bit. You should too. Humor is powerful. Part of that fun is staging contests, promotions and creating engagement with customers, employees and raving fans of course.

The goal of it all is to make it easy for their product, service, or story to spread. We set up the platforms and (“in praise of slow” via Mitch Joel) create fertile ground for a community to build. This is all pretty new stuff so check back for updates and case studies. It’s part art, part science and part hope into the future. It’s better than hoping into the past though- pretty sure the old stuff isn’t coming back anytime soon. Thinking along the same lines? Contact us to start the conversation.

Linchpin, Rework and your small businesses

After polishing off Rework by the founders of 37 signals and Linchpin by Seth Godin in the past few weeks, I have an even stronger feeling about everyone being a story teller. Your small business or non profit needs all hands on deck. It’s always been a good idea to have all your employees marketing and selling for your business. After all nothing happens until someone sells a product or service right? I love a good cliche. Well if it was remotely true in a world of factories, cogs and the #gotoschoolgetagoodjobwork40yearsandretire mantra, then it’s vital now.

There really is no time to waste. Get your team organized. Let them know that they have a story to tell. The story is the uniqueness of your business. If it’s not unique, interesting or a purple cow (hat tip: Seth Godin once again); then start over with a new vision. Get a new plan. Rework the service. Fine tune the product. Make it remarkable, at least relative to your industry, and then organize your team to be story tellers.

The tools are there now. We can all self publish videos, blogs, pictures, audio recordings and we can all build an audience. No more barriers. That used to be the hard part. Advertising is expensive, even when it’s no longer popular. Even when demand is low. Plus who has the time to interrupt enough people day in and day out. Why not assemble your fans, organize them and let them loose sharing your story with the world- or at least a couple hundred to thousand people. That’ll do.

You can do this yourself if you’re a good listener, learner and have the time. If not we’d love to help, maybe. See it depends. Just like you don’t want just any customer, we’re seeking out remarkable small businesses too. It’s hard to help someone share a boring story. It just won’t spread.

Social Media Workshops for Oldham County Chamber of Commerce

Over the last month and a half I’ve been doing a series of Social Media 101 workshops. Each workshop has been divided into 2 weeks with approximately 10 small business owners, freelancers, consultants or non profit directors. When I was initially contacted by the great folks at Oldham County Chamber they mentioned doing a hands on workshop one time for around 30 small business owners. The workshop evolved into 2 two-week sessions with different groups and it has been a great format.

The format has really worked because it allows me to give the participants the big picture in session one and get their buy in through some real life case studies.  The second session allows us to introduce some tools to make businesses more efficient at managing their inbound marketing. Too many businesses are “doing” social media because someone told them they should. In my experience you can’t do it, but you can commit to it over the long haul. You can’t get better at it if the only reason you’re testing the waters is because someone told you that you should.

So if I had to give those who haven’t been able to attend the cliff notes version- here it is in bullet form.

The concepts:

Inbound Marketing or Digital Marketing whatever you prefer. This includes social media, blogging, playing well with search engines (Google), and content marketing.

The key players:

Chris Brogan

Mitch Joel

Hubspot

Seth Godin

The books to read:

Trust Agents

Six Pixels of Separation

Linchpin

Tribes

Crush It

Rework

The spaces:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIN

Youtube

The tools:

Google Reader

Google Alerts

Google External Adword Tool

WordPress or Hubspot CMS

Twitter Search

Hootsuite

Sorry no time to link all these up. Maybe in a follow up post. Just Google them all.

Stop majoring in the minors with your website

If you major in the minors you’ll never get online. You’ll be too focused on the things that matter to you. Which means they probably won’t be the things that matter to your customers.

Do you think your customers are worried about fonts, pop, edge or  padding?

Are they sitting around thinking about your logo? Your header?

Are they consumed with the color of your website background?

Do you think they make their purchasing decisions based on these factors? I say no.

I think the design is very important. I think they want to see something professional, assuming others showed up in their Google search. If you were the only one, chances are they were thrilled that someone local showed up at all.

So stop majoring in the minors and start focusing on bottom line results.

  • Is my site live and can customers and prospects find me?
  • Is the organization and navigation good?
  • Do the graphics work?
  • Can customers and prospects contact you through your site?
  • Can customers and prospects connect with you on social media via your site?
  • Can customers and prospects make buying decisions with the content on your site?
  • Can customers educate themselves on your products or services via your blog?
  • Can customers and prospects learn about you, your team, your company and your uniqueness?

Leave the rest of the stuff to refinement. It’ll give you something to tweak after you launch.

The New Top of Mind- 7 reasons to pump out content

Here is a quick list of 7 Reasons why you should start Pumping out Content for your small business, micro business or startup.

1) Because you can.

With a WordPress site and a premium theme ( of course I’m an affiliate) you are the director of “You” Publishing. It’s the ultimate in Bootstrap Marketing.

2) Because it’s fun.

What small business owner doesn’t get ideas in the middle of the night, driving down the road or in the shower. We all do. We care about our baby and even the most boring of us comes up with great ideas to promote his or her baby. Now you have the keys and you’re in control.

3) Because it educates and sells.

Want to get a point across to a prospect. Want to reinforce something to a current customer. Want to show your hand to a competitor. Want to tell your customers and prospects why they should look at your value propositions. Pump out the good relevant content.

4) Because you’ll be one of the first adopters.

No matter how much small businesses are chattering about inbound marketing, social media and blogging- very few are actually doing it. Want to get ahead? Then actually do it and stop just talking about it.

5) Because you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Creating good content for your site and blog is fun yet challenging. It requires you to rethink the way you run your business, the way you market your products and services and the way your community views you. Whether you’re recording videos and screencasts, snapping telling pictures, writing great posts or sharing key links- you’ll be forced to think and learn along the way.

6) Because you’re creating indexable content that can be referenced by you and search engines fo-ever.

Think about the difference between the web and sending a direct mail piece, running a print ad or buying a phone book ad. Print is finite. The web is not as of yet.

7) Because I said so.

I have your best interests at heart. I’m a nice guy and a lot smarter people than me are saying this too.

Why I use WordPress?

Let me count the ways … no that’s too cliche.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I use WordPress … no that’s too Twitter.

Please become a fan of WordPress on my Facebook page … no that’s too Farmville or whatever that Facebook game is called that everyone sends me and I ignore.

For only $19.99 get all my WordPress Secrets … too splash page.

Click here to download a free trial of WordPress … too spammy plus it’s already free.

Pick up the phone and call now and you’ll also get my bonus report “How I’ve made millions in 3 hours per day using WordPress” … too late night infomercial.

Ok seriously now, the reasons why I use WordPress are many. This post may just scratch the surface but WordPress is something I love to use and write about. I’ve also built a business around it. Did I mention [start of shameless self plug] that my wife downloaded a virus on her PC last week for the 2nd time this year. It’s toast this time (I use a Mac and she wants one too but wouldn’t this Netbook really hold her over for another year or so- I think so too) [end shameless self plug] and we could use a new Netbook.

WordPress has leveled the playing field in two big ways:

1) It has made Web Design way more affordable. You no longer are tied to a webmaster if you don’t need to be. You also don’t have to get a custom CMS (content management system) built. You can launch a website or blog in a matter of hours. With the amazing number of premium themes and plug ins you can focus your attention on creating compelling content and building a community around your product, idea, service or cause. Instead of focusing all your attention on design, functionality and technical stuff, you get to redirect that energy toward the things that truly drive traffic and create bottom line results. Plus it has widgets and you can’t go wrong with widgets.

2) WordPress has allowed you, me and anyone with a business, passion or hobby to self publish. You no longer have to wait to be published in a magazine, newspaper or journal. You no longer have to pay big bucks to broadcast your message on TV or radio. You hit the publish button everytime you post something in WordPress. If it’s good they’ll find it through Google. They’ll share it on Twitter. They’ll Digg it or Stumble it. The ball is in your court like it’s never been before. It’s the ultimate bootstrapping tool. It’s homebase. It’s better than the other blogging platforms and open source CMS’s because it has a legion of fans, developers, designers, writers, podcasters, video bloggers, visionaries and entrepreneurs making it better daily. It’s a movement. It’s a community. Did I mention it has widgets and that’s fun to say.

I heart it and it’s high on my list.

Thanks to WP Studio for putting on the contest and to ithemes and webdesign.com for all they do to make WordPress better.

Keeping track of your contacts

In the past it was a daunting task to keep track of customers. This was true especially if you let it get away from you over the years. If you’re like most small businesses and busy professionals, you probably did.

That brings me to the good news. If you’d done a bad job of keeping tabs on your contacts in the past- you’d have had an uphill battle. Your company would be in for a laborious session using Google, Yellowbook, Whitebook and online directories to find each and every contact. Not anymore.

Here is a strategy I share with all my customers. Get a legal pad and allocate a few hours in several batches throughout a week. Write down those you’ve done business with, networked with and just befriended over the years. Now take said notebook and go to Google. Type in their names one by one. If they’re on the grid, then you’re leveraging the power of six degrees of separation or six pixels if you prefer.

Many will show up in your Google search on Facebook. From there you can find most of their friends. Bet they’re on your list as well. Not on Facebook? No problem. How about LinkedIn? Found someone on LinkedIn, scan their connections. See anyone else on your list? Not on Facebook or LinkedIn, but hey there’s still Twitter. Oh yeah and Flickr, WordPress, Blogger and a million others. Maybe they show up on a contact or about page of a website. Heck maybe they even own their own business now.

Now you are connected to them and their information is fresh because they updated it themselves. No directory guessed at it. So you can connect with them where they’re at or you can bring their info in to your CRM. Now the hard work starts- building relationships and staying top of mind.

10 simple steps for WordPress as CMS

Obviously, we know that WordPress has become much more than a blog platform. It’s won awards for the top CMS so you’re probably aware that it can work nicely for your website.- especially if you’re looking to Bootstrap your way to success. So what are some of the simple ways aside from blogging to keep your site fresh? Here’s a quick list of 10 to get you started.

  1. Add new links weekly to your link widget and display it in your sidebar.
  2. Add an RSS page template and pull in all your favorite feeds to that page.
  3. Embed your Google Reader share items in a page or widget.
  4. Embed your Delicious bookmarks RSS feed into a widget area.
  5. Embed your Google Calendar into a page.
  6. Pull in social media badges from Flickr, Youtube or Twitter.
  7. Change key widget areas on the home page with simple text widgets.
  8. Use a plug in like Billboard to easily update ads, sponsors or promotions.
  9. Add to your portfolio, case studies, testimonials or services pages.
  10. Blog- sorry for the obvious but it had to make the list.