“LIKE” IF YOU REMEMBER MYSPACE

MySpaceIs it just me, or has there been an explosion of people posting nostalgic photos on Facebook and asking you to click “Like” if you can remember a black and white picture of some fifties TV icon or a once popular consumer product from your youth? Time has a way of reducing our past to warm, fuzzy memories. Heck, show me a photo of a macho guy enjoying a cigarette on the back of a horse and I might even forget that three of the Marlboro Man actors died of lung cancer!

Digital media has done more than merely provide a medium to share the recollections of our youth. It has greatly diminished the time span during which products and services move from broad acceptance and popularity to distant memories. Allow me to offer two well-known examples.

Gutenberg’s 1440 invention of the printing press revolutionized communication. It made possible the sharing of ideas and information through the mass production of books. It took another 555 years, until 1995, for an upstart company named Amazon to start selling those same books using something that had been introduced just three years earlier. That something was the Internet.

It took another 12 years to popularize eReaders like their famous Kindle. Within four years, Amazon was selling three times as many eBooks as hard covers. Their success obviously does not include a plethora of competitors including the hugely successful Apple iPad. It seems almost certain the paper book will soon be a candidate for Facebook friends to ask you to “Like” if you can remember owning one.

Still, 600 years from invention to impending obsolescence is not a bad run! Now consider a more recent service life span.

MySpace was introduced in August 2003, six months before Facebook. Just two years later, it was the most visited social networking site on the planet. Rupert Murdock was so excited about its prospects that he paid $580 million for it in 2005. In 2006, it reached 100 million accounts, a level that required 1,600 employees to support.

Facebook over took it in April 2008.

In June 2011, Murdoch’s News Corporation sold MySpace for $35 million, a 94% loss on their six-year investment. With uncharacteristic understatement, Murdoch pronounced the purchase a “huge mistake”.

These examples illustrate three critically important points for all 21st century marketers.

  1. Communication trends change faster than businesses can anticipate. Most lack the resources to manage that change.
  2. Faced with a constantly expanding stream of free choices, your target audience no longer uses communications channels popular just a few years ago.
  3. Neither do your successful competitors.

The cost of failure is high. Even the most carefully designed marketing communiqué, be it a press release, an ad campaign, a newsletter, etc., will fail if it is not transmitted in the optimal channel.

The only way to avoid that mistake is to communicate a consistent message and single brand to over-lapping audiences across multiple channels. That is what successful digital media marketing is all about.

© 2013 by CFO America, LLC

Bull Horns in Cyberspace, Part 1

Last Friday CFO America’s blog began with the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise?” It concluded by assuring readers that falling tress always make noise. That got me thinking about things we can do to make noise, or rather what we can do to attract attention to our blogs. It also caused me to reflect on some of the mistakes I have made over the past six months (listen to me, the battle-hardened veteran) as a blogger.

Today I will present Part 1 of a two-part article on this topic. Here are my thoughts for today:

1. Pick a schedule and stick to it! The correct blogging frequency is whatever best helps you connect with your target audience. For some blogs that may be daily, for others once a month. Unfortunately, this is not a variable that invites experimentation. Fortunately, it is not so much a question of having the optimal blogging frequency. Simply commit to a schedule and tell your readers when to expect new posts. While most bloggers enjoy writing, too great a frequency can be grueling. I blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, something I have done faithfully except for a handful of holidays. As you gain followers, do not confuse or disappoint them by not keeping your commitment. Here are a few thoughts to help ease the burden of your commitment.

  • Consider using guest writers periodically. That way your readers are treated to different areas of expertise and points of view. It is also a great way to support your friends and network contacts. Hopefully, they will reciprocate and share some of your articles on their website, further extending your reach through cyberspace.
  • Instead of your usual topics or content, occasionally supplement your original writing by sharing (with appropriate attribution) relevant quotes, historical notes, articles and tips written by others. You might also ask readers to suggest topics.
  • Do not give up too quickly. As I said on Friday, Fred Campos of FunCitySocialMedia believes it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following. Many bloggers become discouraged and give up before reaching that milestone.

2. Keep posts short, preferably under 600 words. I say this for three reasons.

  • First, readers are looking for “McNuggets” of actionable information, not the English translation of War and Peace.
  • Secondly, the average American adult reads 250 to 300 words per minute. Numerous studies suggest that over 65% of visitors spend less than 2 minutes on a website. Therefore, an entry longer than 600 words will not be read in its entirety, if at all. I should add that the average time spent on CFO America’s blog is three minutes and nine seconds, an unusually long time, but one for which I am grateful!
  • I began blogging by posting excerpts from my book, Highly Visible Marketing, 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity. By making blog entries too long, I undoubtedly lost readers before the end of long articles. More importantly, I also ran through my previously written material too quickly. Save some your creative material for another day! A better alternative to lengthy articles is to split them into multiple parts, posting them in consecutive entries. I begin with a brief review of what was discussed in the previous blog, and end by telling readers what to expect in the next entry.

Let me now practice what I preach by ending for today. On Friday, I will present Part 2 of On Bull Horns in Cyberspace. It will discuss suggestions for defining your style and promoting your blog through other social media tools.

Until Friday, please continue to provide valuable feedback and share this information with your friends, coworkers and other associates. Why not add a comment below before leaving today?

 

 

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 2

On Friday, I began a discussion of things I learned about SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Since that time, my seven files have had more than 3,400 combined views, 2,800 for one file alone.

I shared the first three items on my list. They discussed how to start your profile, upgrade options and social media connections. Part 2 will discuss suggestions for making SlideShare an integral part of your marketing efforts. Here is today’s list:

4. I preach a simple 12-word marketing strategy to clients and friends. It is this: Communicate one message, promoting one brand, to multiple audiences, at no cost. While Friday’s item #3 fully supports this strategy, do not stop there! I issued three free press releases (one of which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/ipIFnF), published this information using several free article marketing websites and periodically retweet links to the presentations.

5. The first slide of a PowerPoint presentation or the first page of a pdf document will appear as a small icon link on your profile page. It should be readable, attractive and descriptive to invite viewers. I display my logo and blog URL on every download. You will also be asked to provide a description, category and tags for each file. Making this information keyword rich makes it easier for interested views to locate you slide shows and videos. Making something keyword rich simply means using certain words and phrases that potential customers are likely to use in search engines when looking for your company, products or  services.

6. SlideShare gives users the option of allowing viewers to download files. Since you are posting files in a very public venue, I see no reason not to allow downloads. Additionally, presentations can be made available only to authorized viewers with any of the upgraded versions. It is then a viable option to share private files that are simply too large to email. An example might be a large contract or proposal in pdf format.

If you do not know how to create a pdf file, download CutePDF Writer at http://cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp. It is a free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a printer subsystem. This enables virtually any Windows applications to create professional quality pdf documents.

7. SlideShare can be used to promote and support your event marketing efforts. For example, you can make advanced copies of upcoming seminars available online to help invitees decide whether to attend, or provide copies to interested parties who are unable to attend.

8. Users and their followers can post additional information on their wall, very similar to Facebook. I posted a notice of a free seminar based on one of my uploaded files, along with a link to EventBrite for event details. Viewers can also post comments on individual slide shows.

Please return Wednesday when we not only complete the list of 12 things I learned, but will reveal the final two Chinese proverbs.

Becoming a Recognized Expert

There is an old axiom in marketing that a prospect does not become a customer until a vendor touches them seven times. Touches or interactions involve every tool in your marketing quiver, including face-to-face meetings and free seminars. The axiom is supported by the fact that consumers prefer to do business with people and companies they know, like and trust.

The question every business must answer is how to initiate and sustain the process without crossing the fine line of being perceived as just another pushy or (worse yet) desperate sales person. Event-based marketing can be a very effective way to start the ball rolling. It will allow you to interact with potential customers and build trust as you demonstrate your expertise. It will also encourage them to seek you out for your knowledge and expertise, and to recommend you within their circle of influence.

There are several free event-listing sites available on the Internet should you wish to open your events to the public. Most allow business promoters to coordinate announcements and listings through Facebook and Twitter. Some allow you to issue tickets, limit attendance, collect fees (via PayPal) and even ask qualifying questions. Online event-listing websites include:

  • EventBrite
  • EventSync
  • Facebook Events
  • PlanCast
  • Zvents

Prospective attendees will ask themselves a very selfish question. What is in this for me? Most small businesses will welcome free advice in at least three areas: how to increase sales, how to reduce costs and how to generate more cash. Whatever your subject matter, promotional material must identify specific customer problems and promise real solutions.

Make sure information presented at the event closely matches those promotional promises. They are what drew attendees. It is unlikely that disappointed prospects, frustrated at not hearing the promised solutions, will become your customer.

The main point of your presentation is what the audience wants to hear, not what you want to tell them. Get to it quickly.

You want your audiences’ undivided attention. Therefore, present only a cryptic outline on slides and handouts at the event. Otherwise, attendees could have read the presentation at home and saved the trip.

Attendees will expect a commercial. Hold it for the last or next to last slide.

Finally, a drawing for a free gift certificate, an autographed copy of your latest book or some other valuable prize will encourage attendees to stay for the entire presentation.

Nine Things I learned about YouTube-Part 2

Wednesday’s blog post discussed the first four things I learned about creating YouTube videos. It covered hardware and software requirements, and their cost. I hope you were as surprised as I was to learn you don’t have to spend a lot of money, and may already have everything you need.

Today, I will complete the list. Here are items 5 through 9:

5. Windows Live Movie maker or WLMM allows you to import entire PowerPoint presentations or individual slides. This is useful if your video subject matter is technical and requires visual aids. It is far more professional than writing on a flipchart with your back to the camera. The trick is to save documents as png or tif files, rather than in PowerPoint. The software also imports pictures. You can then narrate off-screen, or just use them to spice up your video.

6. Whether you import videos, slides or pictures, MLMM presents a plethora of editing options. I found the ability to end videos before that awkward moment when I walk off-screen to stop the camera is especially helpful. For that reason, stand motionless and silent for one or two seconds before you end a video or slide. It will make for a cleaner break as you transition into the next slide. The standard length of a slide will be 7 seconds, but that is easily changed to accommodate your need. There are also countless video and animation special effects, which I have yet to explore. One feature that I do plan to incorporate into my next video is captions. I might, as an example, include my web address or contact information in the presentation.

7. You can record narrations with Sound Recorder, and match them with the appropriate slide. If you are a type-A person as I am, concentrate on speaking at a moderate pace. Again, you can edit the duration, adjust the volume and fade in and out of the audio. You can also import music.

8. One feature of WLMM did surprise and disappoint me. Perhaps I missed something, but my computer saved the videos into something called a wlmp file format. YouTube supports a wide variety of formats, but wlmp is not among them. After a little research and experimentation, I discovered some good news. You can upload directly from WLMM to YouTube by simply clicking the appropriate “Share Button” in the upper right Toolbar. I found a technical explanation of why this works, but who cares? Problem solved!

9. Finally, once you have successfully uploaded your finished video, keep in mind that YouTube allows you to do some basic Search Engine Optimization or SEO. It allows a description and tags. As always, make them keyword rich. Fred Campos, the founder of FunCitySocialMedia, suggests you include your company’s name in video titles. Since the end game is to have people locate and watch you videos, do not over-look this important step.

Well, that’s my list. I hope you will find something of use here, and more importantly that it will encourage you to pursue more of the low-cost marketing experimentation I talked so much about in my book. If you would like to see CFO America ShiningStar Studio’s (a wholly owned subsidiary of just plain old CFO America) premiere video, please visit http://bit.ly/lx8ard.

Have a great weekend, and thanks to all the faithful readers who have so kindly posted comments and words of encouragement on this blog. Please continue to spread the word!

Energizing Your Work Force

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics once said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, make me feel important. Never forget this message when working with people.”

Her quote applies to both customers and employees. Today, I want to apply it to your employees. Make sure every employee fully understands how important the accomplishment of his or her individual goals is to achieving overall company success. Publicly praise them when they accomplish a major milestone toward achieving those goals.

Do not assume every employee knows all they need to know about your products, services, company policies or even the basics of sales and customer service. Make the effort to ensure they are adequately trained on all critical aspects of your business. Simply teaching them to up sell by always asking the equivalent of the fast food industry’s standard question, “Do you want fries with that order?” will go a long way toward increasing average customer purchases.

Why is this important? Alan J. Zell, author and retail marketing expert says, “Every business needs more business. That is an accepted fact. The unaccepted fact is that most businesses don’t use all the opportunities available that will bring them additional business. When one looks for additional business, the primary goal should center around getting second sales. What are second sales and why are they important? Second sales are add-on sales, repeat sales and sale by referral. They are important because they are much less expensive to get than first sales.”

If you would like to see Mr. Zell’s advice in practice, try leaving a shoe store without being asked if you need extra laces, polish and a few extra pairs of socks to go with your new shoes. It cannot be done!

I talked earlier about the importance of networking. Here are two simple suggestions that will make your employees feel appreciated, and give you the opportunity to grow your business through their network contacts.

  • If there are too many networking opportunities for one person, have a key employee join a group or two. It will be a growth experience for them and it demonstrates your trust and appreciation.
  • I can still remember my excitement over 35 years ago when, having just graduated college, I brought my first business card home and presented it to my father. I do not know who was prouder, my dad or me. I also gave copies to everyone I knew, and probably strangers I passed on the street. However, what I attributed to pride, my employer probably chalked up to that cheap advertising I talked about in Chapter 3. Order business cards for all your permanent employees. They are sure to hand them out generously.

Let’s meet again on Wednesday. And remember, you have just one week to submit your entry for CFO America’s contest and a chance to win a $100 gift card. Please visit http://bit.ly/iImrPd for details.

More on Dues-fee Networking

Last Friday’s post discussed ways to network without incurring dues. Here is one more idea on that topic. Use your burgeoning networking skills to form your own merchants’association.

I was in a frozen custard store a few months back. (Note that if I were making this story up, I would have said a health food store.) As I was leaving, the cashier handed me a 25% coupon. There was nothing unusual
about that. However, this coupon was for another retailer selling totally unrelated products. The reality is the second retailer (assume it was a shoe store) would happily hand the identical coupon to any new customer who walked through their door. This idea is effective because except for the coupon, I would have never given the shoe store a thought.

Many malls and similar retail venues have a merchants’ association to promote its members. For example, you can plan facility-wide marketing events (festivals, special sale days, etc.), or one-on-one partnership
promotions like the custard store illustration. Another common practice is to offer gift certificates that can be redeemed in any member’s store. The concept works well for participants in close physical proximity and if marketing partners know and trust you, and are familiar with your product or service. Assuming you can obtain the help and support of other members, create an association newsletter or similar forum to keep members informed about matters of common interest like law changes, community events and so forth.

Let me now end the discussion on networking with a quote from Mr. Tom Lewis, an online marketing consultant from “across the pond” who I thought put the whole concept of networking in a rather interesting and
concise perspective. He said, “All these new media buzzwords like social networking and technology like LinkedIn are just new ways of complementing (some would say avoiding) personal contact. Get out there and get your face known! Pick up the phone and call some potential clients. Speak at some networking events. Knock on some doors.”

Thank you Mr. Lewis, I agree.

Dues Free Networking

The goal of the Chamber of Commerce is to act as a business network to promote local businesses. The Chambers of Commerce in my area all do a very effective job of carrying out that mission. They frequently hold ribbon cutting ceremonies and similar events to promote new or expanded businesses. These events often appear on the front page of local newspapers. They also conduct formal and informal networking events. However, since my book is subtitled 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the annual cost for an individual membership would likely be between $150 and $250. Corporate memberships generally start around $250 and can escalate quickly as you grow depending on annual sales, number of employees or other variable factors determined by individual chapters. Furthermore, not all of the cost is tax deductible.

Here are two networking strategies you can implement without incurring dues.

Why not form your own personal networking group? You will eventually deal with many vendors, bankers, insurance agents, accountants, lawyers, suppliers and so on. Evaluate potential vendor’s customer base, and try to select those most similar to your market. Then trade referrals. Make sure they fully understand your business and its marketing objectives. They will also need a generous supply of your business cards and
other appropriate marketing materials.

  • Vendors who serve other customers and clients in your markets can be a great source of general market intelligence. However, do not ask them to compromise their business ethics by revealing confidential competitor information, and be leery of those who do so voluntarily.

A variation of the personal networking group idea is the “Buddy Marketing” strategy. Look for partners with products or services that are complementary to yours, or whose customers use your product or service. An example would be a sporting goods store joining forces with a health club. The store can offer club members special discounts and promotions on sporting goods products. They can also share mailing lists and even include club promotions in their mailings, electronic distributions and on their website. Perhaps the health club would allow the retailer to demonstrate their products in the club’s lobby on occasion.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, as we remember all those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the rights and privileges of living in a free society. May God bless all of those who voluntarily wear a uniform, including my son, Eric.

Make It Easy to Buy!

Since the Dallas Mavericks are just one win away from the NBA finals, I’ll take this opportunity to introduce today’s message with a quote from their billionaire owner, Mark Cuban. He clearly explained a simple but universal marketing principle. “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customer buying from them, not you.” On Monday, I offered an easy way to increase customer retention and lessen the chance they will choose to say no. It was to use an auto-pay system in your customer billing process.

That idea can be taken a step further if you sell products on a recurring basis. Assume for example that you sell vitamins and other health supplements. Customers probably purchase in some logical quantity or interval, such as a monthly supply. Offer incentives to authorize you to auto-ship product paid for with a monthly credit card charge or bank draft. Again, customer retention will improve since sales are no longer dependent on them finding time to visit your store. Customers are more likely to continue buying if not effectively forced to reconsider their purchase every 30 days. Finally, you have again simplified and improved your customers’ lives by saving them time and mileage.

I began today with a statement by Mark Cuban on the importance of making it easy for your customers to buy from you. American retailing pioneer F. W. Woolworth put it in even simpler terms. I end with his comment. He said, “I am the world’s worst salesman. Therefore, I must make it easy for people to buy.”

So must you!

Let Me Think About It and Get Back To You…

Have you ever had a customer or prospect utter that dreaded phrase? If so, then you understand they were probably just trying to be polite. They wanted to avoid saying the single most hated word in all of business directly to your face. NO! And yet I see countless vendors and businesses practically inviting customers to say exactly that every month. Let me give you an example.

I have a monitored home security system. It costs $19.95 per month. The security company mails a bill every month. Several aspects of this practice amaze me. First, the vendor incurs the unnecessary expense of postage and paper. I waste a stamp, check and envelope every month. Do not get me started on the whole “go green” thing! Furthermore, I suspect being dependent on when customers remember to mail checks makes for less predictable cash flows.

However, there is a far more important and obvious marketing implication involved here. This billing procedure provides every customer with a monthly opportunity to reconsider whether he or she really wants to spend the money, to “get back to you” as it were! I am going to assume you have implemented the payment options discussed in previous blog posts. If so, and if your value proposition includes providing recurring services, this situation cries out for an auto-payment system.

Offer clients a discount to authorize an automatic credit card charge or bank draft on the first business day of every month. Your customer retention rate will likely improve as billing costs decrease and cash flow becomes far more predictable. Perhaps most important of all, you will make it easier for your clients to do business with you! It is a shining example of what Robert Allen might consider a “never-ending improvement” customer educational opportunity. Also keep the following in mind.

  • If customers need a monthly invoice, email it to save costs and a trip to the post office.
  • Maintaining sensitive financial information like credit card and bank account numbers imposes certain legal obligations and requires an increased level of internal controls to ensure customer security and privacy. Having to announce that your data systems have been compromised or that a laptop containing customer financial records has been stolen are public relations nightmares. I have had my credit card numbers stolen by someone at two different companies, neither of which I will ever use again.

Finally, as regular readers of this blog have figured out, I am both a history fan and a proud Northern transplant to Texas. Be sure and read CFO America’s Facebook page today for a historical anniversary that had a strong connection right here in my own back yard. You’ll find it at http://www.facebook.com/CFOAmerica.

I’ll talk with you again on Wednesday.

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