Archive for December, 2010

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Marketing During Challenging Times

May you live in interesting times.

Is that ancient expression a blessing or curse? I suppose it all depends on how you define “interesting” and more importantly how you respond and adapt to it.

`If you define interesting to mean unpredictable, challenging and/or threatening, then we clearly live in interesting times. Business these days is more like shooting the rapids in a rubber raft than canoeing in a duck pond.

It’s too easy to be mesmerized by the danger of capsizing. If you focus on the rocks, that’s where you will go. The secret is to look for and steer to the high water and paddle like crazy.

Survival is Never the Goal

If you set your sights on surviving you could slip and sink. If you set your target as thriving then you just might flourish.

How do you thrive in these turbulent waters?

Marketing is the culmination of all the messages and communication that you and your staff send. In fact, your staff sends more powerful marketing messages than all the advertising in the world could ever do. Thus, marketing becomes the end result of almost every business decision you make.

Think Long Term

You should never make knee-jerk decisions – especially about your business strategy. Gather as much relevant information as you can. Seek the advice of people you respect. Be clear on your purpose. Examine both the short term and long term effects of major decisions. Once you decide, act quickly and confidently. Your staff is looking to you for leadership and hope. Be open to course corrections when and as needed while clearly focused on the objectives and purpose.

Prepare for Disaster, But Don’t Fixate On It

The fire or police department prepares for disaster – but they don’t obsess about it. They analyze, plan, acquire the best tools and rehearse their response so they can move swiftly when needed. Where are you exposed and how can you protect yourself? When you are shooting the rapids it is very foolish to save money by not buying life vests.

Review Expenditures

Don’t make across-the-board cuts. That’s a political response and just plain dumb. You are cutting both valuable, ROI positive activities – that make you money and bring you customers – along with ineffective ones. Instead, categorize expenditures and investments into four categories:

Items that are needed because of the turbulent times to keep you above water or deal with potential disaster. Plus, items that generate a solid return. These are new or increased expenditures.

Items that are mission critical and need to be maintained as is. Nothing more to say here. Cutting anything here would be a very poor business decision.

Items that provide variable return. Peg the expenditure level to the conditions and vary as conditions change. Treat this process like an exchange rate and invest accordingly.

Items of questionable value. Eliminate them, modify them or phase them out completely. This is where some of your cost savings comes from.

Review Training

Review does not necessarily mean reduce or eliminate. Training can be even more important during challenging times. This is when your own skills and those of your staff need to be at their best. You don’t want to lost sales because of poor quality control or customer service. Categorize your training needs into three categories:

Key individuals that will steer you through the turbulent times. Provide individualized coaching or training to them. This is the time to invest strongly in your best assets.

Departments that need to stay sharp and ahead of your competition. Provide group training, tele-seminars, webinars or other special attention to improving their skills sets.

Staff that need to be motivated and reminded of overall purpose. Remind them of the little things that make the difference to customers. Get each of them a copy of a good book that best conveys that message. Ask each staff member to report at weekly meetings on an assigned chapter in that book. Make them feel important to your mission. Remember that it only takes one employee’s mistake (or sabotage) to sink your raft.

Review Advertising

Too many companies make the dumb decision to make major cuts in advertising or marketing communications during turbulent times. My guess is that they were the same folks who didn’t review their marketing during the good times. Categorize your advertising into three categories:

Advertising that is measurable and has demonstrated a profitable ROI. Continue to measure as you grow your investment in this profitable avenue. Unfortunately, too many companies don’t measure their return on advertising or they don’t design their ads or online communications in a way that allows the results to be measured. So they have nothing in this particular category. That’s a shame.

Advertising that has gained market recognition and that you believe to be working. You just don’t have a clue how profitable this venue actually is. Start to build in some measurement indicators. Vary the ads and measure. Then increase or reduce investment appropriately.

Advertising that is merely “me too”. You bought an ad because your competitor did. It might be a waste of money, but you don’t know. Reduce the expenditure, modify the message or medium or simply eliminate it.

Build Relationships

In turbulent times nothing is more important than relationships. We will warmly remember those who suffered with us or helped us through the turbulent times. Invest strongly in strengthening the relationship with your best clients. Segment your clients into three categories:

Best clients. Divert more attention to their wants and needs, and instruct your staff accordingly. Jump through hoops for these clients. Provide them additional value-added services to help them. Communicate with them more often.

Average clients. Maintain your service levels and pricing. Attempt to upgrade them to “A” clients by introducing additional services.

Pain-in-the-you-know-what clients. Don’t let them bully you into reducing your prices. Instead, you might reduce your level of service to them. Give them the choice of upgrading or leaving. You’ll have less stress in your life.

Relationships are your most vital assets

Relationships are ALWAYS more important than your branding – especially during turbulent times. When you have the choice to invest in branding or invest in relationships – choose relationships, every time. It is the far more profitable choice for most businesses, especially small and medium sized enterprises. Don’t forget that big businesses invest in branding because they cannot build relationships. Don’t be fooled by the branding hype.

Online Social Media

Don’t hide. Use the Internet to keep your message and name in front of people. If you haven’t yet created your blog, this is the perfect time to begin. Post regular tips and advice, news and positive messages. Register and maintain your accounts on social networking sites like LinkedIn.com, Plaxo.com and Facebook.com.

Explore the use of Flickr and YouTube.com to publish product news and demonstrations. Barack Obama, used these tools to successfully promote his presidential campaign, and he plans to use them to convey his messages to the American people and the world.

May you thrive in interesting times.

How Social Media Is Changing Everything – Chatting With The Photo Comment Feature On Facebook

As I thought of a topic for this week’s blog, I was immediately drawn to an experience I recently had online between myself and my Mom on Facebook. She is still fairly new to Facebook, like so many others, but has made lots of connections since joining, and is beginning to use the network more frequently. (This makes perfect sense, since the fastest growing segment of Facebook is women aged 55 and older!) And the interaction that I had with her showed me the huge, growing potential of social networks.

I had posted a few photos of myself and friends on my FB page from the previous night, of us and the guys from Jackopierce, a great two-man band that we like to check out whenever they come to town. Shortly thereafter, my Mom posted a Comment on one of the photos, which I then instantly was alerted to and read. So I wrote back. And before we knew it, we were having a back and forth discussion on the Photo Comment section of Facebook! (She invited me over for dinner, which was delicious by the way…)

Now why do I bring this up? Because it is a perfect example of the utility of social media, and how it is fundamentally changing the way that people communicate. Did the designers of this Facebook function plan on people using the Comment section in this way? Maybe, but maybe not. But the fact is that each of these capabilities and options, not just in Facebook but also the unique features contained within Twitter, LinkedIn, various Google platforms, social bookmarking services, even MySpace and Friendster at the beginning of the social media revolution – are giving us all communication options that we’ve never had before.

And that’s the real story – the fact that interactive, instant communication is now becoming the norm, across all platforms.

It’s an exciting time to be in my business, as the many social as well as business applications and functions of these networks are just being discovered and utilized.

Who knows where they will go next, and what impact they will have on how business, marketing and promotions are done…not to mention how they are shaping our global society and culture?

If you would like more information on how you and your company can take advantage of the tremendous business opportunities within social media, please visit our Social Media Services page.

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25 Sources To Find Content For Your Next Blog Post

If you’re a blogger, you already know that sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with new content for your blog. Finding ideas for your blog (especially if you regular publishing schedule like we do – at least one post a week on Mondays) can often lead to you not blogging at all, because you start hitting the wall when it comes to finding topics to blog about. So I thought you might find it useful to share 25 ways to use the web to find fresh content for your blog. And of course, most of these tips work just as well with creating content for your E-newsletter, email marketing, website copy, article marketing campaign, etc!

Blog Comments

1. Using a plug-in like CommentLuv allows your commenter to share their most recent post. I’ve seen blog titles that have intrigued me and clicked through to read, which then have given me ideas for a post of my own.

2. If you see a comment that really resonates and offers a unique viewpoint, contact the poster directly and ask if they’d like to guest for you and expand on their original comment. Very often they will say yes!

3. Similar to above, if you see a comment you disagree with, expand your own view into a post and offer reasons why your viewpoint is different than the counter-point.

Other Blogs

4. As pointed our in #1, CommentLuv is great for sharing the most recent post of a blogger, but not every blog uses it. So click through the URL of someone’s comment and see what they’re writing about, to see if you can gather ideas from there.

5. Blogrolls. While some have called blogrolls out of date, many bloggers still use them to share what they’re reading. Visit the blogs that your favorite blogger reads, and see what ideas you can glean from them.

6. Many bloggers have category lists for Top 10 Tips and other popular posts in their main navigation menu. Take a look and see what’s there, and use these to construct your own content.

7. Talking about popular posts, if a blogger has their most popular posts on display in the sidebar, click on a few to read and see what made these specific posts so popular. Then see how you can take this inspiration and apply it to your own posts.

Social Bookmarks

8. Delicious is a fantastic resource for finding blog content. Just type your topic into the Delicious search bar and you’ll find a ton of results from people that have saved articles or blog posts about your chosen topic.

9. Stumbleupon is a very cool add-on for your browser which lets you browse websites at random. You can land on some great content that will give you your own ideas for your blog.

10. While not quite as popular as it used to be, Digg still has some great shared posts and news on its site, and can be a great tool for finding new content ideas. Look at the most popular posts and see what new take on these topics you can offer readers.

11. BizSugar concentrates on small business news, and is rapidly gaining in popularity. If your blog relates at all to this niche, you can get some really good story ideas from here.

12. A mix of social community and bookmarking service, Blog Engage is similar to Digg and BizSugar with its voting system, but it focuses a lot on just bloggers and is another great starting point for subject ideas.

Blog Resources

13. One of my favorite blog communities is Scribnia. You can find authors and bloggers based on niches, and this can really help you target the content you’d like to get inspiration from.

14. Alltop offers a great collection of blogs in a myriad of different topics – if you can’t find something to write about there, then you really are stuck!

15. Still viewed by many as the Blogger’s Bible, Technorati has more than 133 million blogs registered within their site. Use the top topics or categories to discover content you can get ideas from.

16. Google Blog Search is a resource which offers a treasure trove of information on every topic under the sun. Much like Technorati and Alltop, use the search tool to find your interests.

17. Another popular resource from Google is their “Trends” portal. If you’re a quick writer, you can write a blog post about a trending topic right now – optimize it for SEO – and hopefully be found by those looking at the trends at that exact moment!

18. Junta 42 offers some great tips on content marketing – check out their articles for ways to get ideas for your own blog. find content for your blog

Social Networks

19. If you’re on Twitter, one of the best ways to find content for your blog is to jump into the weekly #blogchat discussion. Great bloggers, great topics – what more do you need?

20. Staying with the Twitter theme, take a look at what’s trending right now on the platform to see if you can get a post written quickly about it. Just don’t be overly spammy with your hashtags.

21. Once again with Twitter, Twitter Search is great for finding out what people are saying regarding the stuff you blog about – type in your keyword, and see if the current conversations give you inspiration to expand on their topics in a new blog posting.

22. A great application on Facebook is called Networked Blogs, which shares content from Facebook users with blogs and also the Networked Blogs directory itself. You can get a widget with different blogs in it, and use this to build some thoughts for your own content.

23. LinkedIn Groups are perfect for finding blog content. Find an appropriate question being asked there and then write a blog post as the answer.

24. Slideshare is more the just a place for file and document sharing has great presentations that are just chock full of ideas for you to take away and build several blog posts from.

25. In the same way as Slideshare, YouTube is also much more than just a video upload site – think about grabbing a Tips and Advice video, as an example, embedding it into a blog post, and then talking about what else could have been said or added to the video to make it an even better resource.

With these tips, you should be able to find plenty to talk about in your own blog. But for some folks, finding appropriate fresh content isn’t the problem – the time required to track it down, write and edit a blog post, and then uploading it – on a established schedule is the problem. But regular readers of our Hat Trick Associates blog already know that having well written, fresh content on your site very frequently is a critical KEY to having a superior SEO ranking – to convert current visitors and bring new ones in the future.

If you are having trouble finding the time to research and write your regularly scheduled blog, or don’t quite have the desire or writing expertise to get it done efficiently, look into our very cost effective blogging services.

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