Do It Yourself!

The other day on our radio broadcast, Insight on Business the News Hour, we talked about DIY for social media and why that works better than hiring somebody to do the work it takes to engage consumers...your consumers. Don't get us wrong, there are lots and lots of very Keep Calm and DIYtalented people out there who will Tweet, Facebook and Blog for you but...they will never be as good as you.

The push back we get is, "I don't have time to write a 300 word post every week" or "I don't have time to Tweet ten or twelve times a day". The fact is...you do. Let me help you break it down.

If you are spending time with an outside contractor telling them your story, telling them about the impact you had on consumers last week telling them what is hot in your business then you've got time to write it down. It's not that you "don't have time" it's that you simply don't believe in the tools of social media and consumer engagement so you don't MAKE TIME.

I can share, from years of experience and collecting fees for doing social media for others, it is often painful. While we can write and communicate we are not as invested or know the details you know about your business. That is unless we have daily or weekly conversations and then we simply parrot back what you've already shared with us.

So, yes, you have the time.

So let's get started with the a simple three step process to get you to engage your customers in your business blog:

  • What is your Competitive Advantage? - Don't write stuff that doesn't matter to your customers...write down why your customers do business with you. Take fifteen minutes and think of the reasons they have built a relationship with you. Forget about "fast" and "free" focus on how you have built value into the business transaction; 
  • No Weeds - Don't get caught up in selling the steak...sell the sizzle. Far too often business wants to list out the details...all the details. You are miles ahead if you keep it simple and direct;
  • Solve Problems First - What is it that your business does to make your customers or clients life easier, less complicated more enjoyable. You, after all, are the expert in what you do. Now go and share those stories with others who have the same business or life issues. 

Three topics and fifteen to thirty minutes a week and you're in business. DIY Social Media is real and important to consumers they would love to hear from you. Once you've got this down then it is on to the tools that make organic social media work better.  That's next.

Thanks for reading...


National Small Business Week - Marketing Tips

All this week, in the United States, there is a celebration of National Small Business Week. Since 1963 the federal government has set aside a week for a Small Business Week Imagecelebration that is critical to our economy. A few Small Business Facts:

  • There are roughly 29 million small businesses in the U.S. which account for 54% of all sales in this country;
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the U.S. and 66% of all net new jobs;
  • There are 600,000 franchise operations here that employ over 8 million people;
  • The American small business sector occupies nearly 50% of all commercial space up to 34 billion square feet.

Astounding yes?

Many of you have a business that has under 500 employees so, this week is also your week. What can you do to take part in Small Business Week?  Some thoughts:

  • Share Your Story - Contact the local newspaper, radio or television station. Let them know this is National Small Business Week and share your small business story. Take a moment and share what your small business means to your employees and customers and how money spent with you stays in your local community. Believe us, reporters are looking for stories they can use all week long;
  • Get Social - Grab the National Small Business Logo from this post and share it on your social media channels...and tell your story there as well;
  • Say Thank You - Remember your customers...they are the people that keep your business in business. Post a note on social media, send a note to customers, enclose a note in your shipping items...let people know how important they are to your small business;
  • Email the Message - Send out a coupon or at least a thank you reminding your email list that this is National Small Business Week...many of your customers are also small businesses.

Happy National Small Business Week!


Blue Microphones Customer Service ROCKS!

Our advertising agency is what fuels and powers Insight on Business the News Hour the only daily, hour-long business news broadcast in the Midwest (Outside of our friends at WBBM in Chicago). When on the road and away from the studios of our friends at The Des Moines Radio Group we use a Yeti microphone from Blue Microphones out of Westlake Village, California. It's easy to transport, has great sound quality and works directly with a USB into the computer. We also love it that with a dial we can flip from directional (one voice facing the mic) to Yeti New 17 April 2017 an interview format where BOTH sides of the microphone are live.

It's a beautiful piece of equipment.

We like them so much that we've got three of 'em...no really!

Not long ago one of the mics refused to stay connected to the USB port. The cord...just fell out of the bottom of the mic. Don't know if it was wear or if the part was bad...it just wouldn't work. So...called Blue Microphones and their ALWAYS chipper customer service person walked us through the steps to get it back to the company for repair or replacement.

A brand new Yeti arrived in the mail this week.

No questions, no back to back emails, no calls...just replaced.

I want you to know how much we appreciate the culture of this company and for how well they took care of us. Seriously...if you're looking for a business partner and not just a retailer... go...BLUE.

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Negative Branding with Food?

I want to take a few minutes and share with you a branding story that, I'll bet, nobody thinks about but it does have an impact on your brand.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a business centric event/conference for a breakfast and a speaker. Hey...food right? Now, to be sure the buffet Ham and Cheese Egg Casserole wasn't very large but it looked to have some cheesy egg something as the main offering. You could also get some fried potatoes, pastries...you know the regular stuff.

So, I put some of the egg stuff on a plate and went into the dining room. But there hiding in the eggs and cheese was some, I'll bet, really good ham...an Iowa staple.

Here is where it gets interesting. As a Jew I can't eat the egg stuff...two reasons: We don't eat milk and meat together and we, of course don't eat ham. But this has happened many times in the past and it's no big deal. Or is it?

Also in the room were a couple of Vegan folks and two of the people there were Muslim. We get it about the Vegans but you should also know the Muslims are also not permitted to eat pork.  Of the 40 people in the room I counted 7 that took a pass on breakfast but had paid the fee.

The thing meeting planners should think about is that in this increasingly diverse country we live in some folks, and the numbers are growing, have different dietary restrictions than say, a decade ago. It is a growing consumer trend.

I made no fuss nor did my other friends but it bears reminding folks that while we celebrate diversity we'd also like to celebrate breaking bread with our fellow conference attendees.

Thanks for reading and, as always, I'd love to hear your take. 


It's Called SOCIAL Media Because...

It happens more often than not. When business people talk about social media they tend to think it's their personal broadcast station used Man Confused to push out only what THEY think is important.  And, that is exactly why so many fail to harness the true power of this media platform.

Consider this: ESPN broadcasts sports. All kinds of sports. Not just baseball or football or (my personal favorite) curling. OK, not really but you get my point. They broadcast what is in the interest of their viewers. How do they know? Because the network spends millions listening to the general public and then it spoon feeds us what we tell them we want. Which is why you don't see Monday Night Curling.

I get it, you don't have "millions" but you do know your consumer base...right? What is it that motivates them? What is it that gets your customer to nod their head in agreement? What trigger is it that, when pulled, launches engagement? If you don't know then please stop using social media because you will not be pleased with the results and you will consider it all a waste of time.

But...if you understand that your social media platform is more about THEM than YOU...you're on to something.  Let me give you a real-world example.

Mindi Sudman MPL 24 March 2017Some of you know that we are the fuel that powers the daily business news broadcast Insight on Business the News Hour. Every weekday all engines stop here at the ad agency and we go to work compiling the business news of the nation, region and the local Des Moines Metro. It's then off to the Des Moines Radio Group to deliver that news, the Wall Street Report and perform two long-form business interviews with startups to established companies. We've been doing this for nearly four years.

Each Friday we do a "Restaurant of the Week" segment and invite a locally owned restaurateur in to learn the "back-story" of their business. Once done we share with that restaurant (or business) the link to the Radio Blog, photos of our time together and a document that suggests how they might use the radio interview to engage their social media fans/customers.

We can always tell who is successful in their understanding of social media by watching the number of people who then click through to One Eleven Public House 26 March 2017listen to the interview. Last week our Restaurant of the Week was One Eleven Public House a brand new place on Main Street in Knoxville, Iowa. Within 26 hours that interview had been downloaded and listened to by over 225 people. And that is on only ONE of our metrics. You can add another 87 downloads from Podbean, our podcast page and iTunes is still growing. (Go ahead and click on the image to the right.)

Mindi Sudman, (above in studio) the owner of One Eleven Public House gets it..or whomever is doing her social media gets it. And they did not limit their sharing on just Facebook they shared across Instagram and it was trending on Twitter.

Understanding social media, what it is and what it is not, is critical to your marketing success. It has to be done often, right and targeted toward those whom you wish to reach and influence.

Otherwise...it's just a waste of time.

Love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading! 

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The Crushing of Retail Sales and The Box

Online retail sales are crushing brick and mortar sales in many areas and it will only continue. I'll get to the facts on that in just a moment Amazon Box but first a story:

Several weeks ago my wife purchased a new cup for our three year-old grandson. He likes the Hawkeyes. When she presented it to him he looked her and said, "Thanks! Where's the box?" The box? She went on to explain that she purchased the cup from a store and that it didn't come with a "box". He looked at her with a serious questioning face and said, "No box?" He is three and he could not imagine that something new was brought into his house and it didn't come in a box.

Thank you Amazon and now for the facts:

Retail giant Wal-Mart reported solid fourth-quarter results last week with the U.S. business producing another quarter of comparable-sales growth. But the star of the show was e-commerce. Online U.S. sales for Wal-Mart soared 29% year-over-year, an acceleration driven by the company's investments in the acquisition of Jet.com. E-commerce is still small, relative to the brick-and-mortar operations, but that won't remain true for long.

According to the Department of Commerce, total e-commerce sales in the United States rose by 15.1% in 2016, far faster than the 2.9% Online Add to Cartgrowth in total retail sales.

The times they are a changin'.

The reality is that consumers are quickly leaving brick and mortar stores for online deals. They are shopping price as well as convenience as they have seen their wages stagnate and are left with less time to "go shopping". However, the trend isn't always the same for small business retail stores. Especially if they offer a unique shopping experience. So, what can retail, maybe your retail, do to drive traffic to your store? Here are some thoughts:

  • It Ain't About the Product - I can go to big box or online and buy a set of kitchen knives but I can not get the experience that comes with visiting, say, The Kitchen Collage in the East Village of Des Moines or La Gourmet in Valley Junction of West Des Moines. No big box or online retail center can match that experience;
  • Personalized E-Mail Offers - Because your small business is gathering emails (you are right) you can build a very active email campaign to keep your loyal shoppers in the conversation;
  • Retail Celebrations - Places like the East Village and Valley Junction hold special events all of the time...that's not done for big box stores. Getting involved with your neighborhood organization or Chamber can make a difference;
  • Be Exclusive - When going to market find stuff that can't easily be found online and then market that through social media and your email campaign.

All of this takes work...go get 'em!

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Is It The Content or Something Else?

We're now in our fourth year of reporting the business news of the nation, region and the IOB_podcastv2 Greater Des Moines Metro during Insight on Business the News Hour. Each weekday starting at 5:05pm we take to the air on AM-940, FM-104.5 and in HD at 103.3 HD2 and report the business news of the day, what the market did and why and then conduct two long-form business interviews with startups to established corporations. To date we've conducted over 1,500 of those interviews with nearly 147,000 downloads on just one of our podcast pages, Podbean. You can see that here.

That's the history.

And we've noticed something that should be of interest to those of you attempting to extend your voice with social media.  

Social media experts tell us that "content is king". If you produce good and valuable content people will notice and engage. We think that's true as long as the content is about cats or food. Business? Not so much. The vast consumer population could care less about how to grow, maintain, start and stay in business.

Or wait...might it be something else?

We watch, very carefully, the download and listening numbers as they appear on iTunes and Podbean. We also follow the data on Bitly and we've noticed that those business people and businesses who join us for an interview and then share their story along several social media Man Megaphonechannels gain a big advantage. In other words they are not keeping their story...secret or to themselves they are telling the world and it matters.

And, if those businesses or business people carry their message forward for several days/weeks their download numbers explode. Sure we're there carrying the water as well but when the organic tweets and Facebook posts and LinkedIn posts happen more than once...it extends their voice so much further.

There is a valuable lesson here: Social Media is not a "one-and-done" effort. Think of it this way, if you got a new job or you're about to get married or you've just closed a huge deal... would you tell just one person?  No. You would repeat that story several times over the life of the news.

It's the same thing here. The very same thing. Content does matter but so too does properly sharing that content.

Your turn!

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Who Builds Your Brand?

I walked into a Kum & Go, hungry, at 1:00pm on a Sunday and went to the Go Fresh Market area looking for chicken strips. My personal Erich Kum and Go 22 Jan 2017favorite in a pinch. The guy behind the counter saw me checking the offerings and said, "How can I help you?" I told him I was looking for chicken strips but there wasn't any in the case. He says, "If you've got a couple of minutes I can fix those for you."

Really?

This isn't a fast food joint where you walk up, look at a menu and make an order. This was Kum & Go a convenience store chain with over 400 stores in eleven states.

I told my new best friend, "Sure, I've got a few minutes." Off Erich went to make it happen. A few minutes later he delivered.

I asked him for a photo and he agreed and I said, "I don't know if you realize this but this is called building a brand and you have just made that happen to the positive."

Know what he told me? "Hey, that's my job and I'm glad I could be of service."

BAM!

So the question is: Are you hiring folks that can be Brand Warriors for your business or are you just hiring bodies?

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Never Mind We've Got This...

I recently attended a meeting of about 20 volunteers who had gathered to discuss Man Head in Handscommunication efforts. The communication they desire is to build brand awareness and to share information critical to their brand and interested consumers. From what I could gather, from the brief introductions, I was the only professional marketer in the room.

In that two hour meeting there was plenty of discussion about social media, particularly Facebook. An hour into the meeting I asked a question about their existing website, "As with any brand the company website is often the first point of contact among consumers seeking more information about the product or service. It would seem to me that your first consideration would be to put up a website that is mobile friendly, easy to maintain and simple to navigate." I should note here their existing website has none of those qualities.

The response was, "The people we are attempting to reach do not go to websites they would much rather get their information from Facebook." In other words, "Shut up. We've got this."

I spent the next hour listening to minutia about Facebook. From posting to monitoring to limiting access of comments. It was an interesting insight on "group think" with the group having no clear understanding of marketing their message.

For those of you who are in business, and have an interest, allow me offer some simple marketing and advertising thoughts when it comes to building your brand. Ready?

Websites - In my professional opinion your website should be the foundation of your brand. It is your website that is accessible to the world. It is the repository of your brand message, contact information, blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter links. It must be mobile friendly. It must be updated on a regular basis and it must contain information of value to consumers. Ignoring that simple truth is putting your brand at jeopardy.

Blogging - Second only to your website should be your business blog. It is here where your "voice" can be shared in well thought out posts. For folks who want to know more about your business or non-profit your blog can be that gateway. Then use Social Media to share that message with a wider audience. Finally, when your blog becomes part of your Website Home Page you are updating content each time you post. And that is critical to Google Ranking and SEO.

Facebook - The potential universe for this particular non-profit would be roughly 300,000 people of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. Their existing public Facebook page has about 800 followers yet they believe this should be their main branding tool. They are talking to themselves. There is a place for Facebook but it should never be your primary marketing tool. Never.

Twitter -There seemed to be some confusion about how to best use Twitter. We find it to be an amazing news gathering and sharing tool that should, in our opinion, never be linked to your Facebook stream. They are two very different forms of communication and when your Twitter feed has a few words and then that Facebook link it tells those of us who use Twitter on a daily basis you're not really putting in the work to share your brand. We've got a blog post on that from several years ago. It will offer you "why".

YouTube - The world loves video. Here is a post from 2012 that speaks to the power of video for business THEN. Today the numbers are even more staggering. However, to gain traction the video that is produced must be well done, share valuable information and have the ability to capture the attention of the consumer in the first five seconds. This is a project best done by professionals otherwise it can be a waste of time.

Instagram - There was little talk about this social media tool that we've found to be fun, informative and growing in popularity. However, Instagram does have some limitations such as linking and we believe you must post to the platform at least three times a day to gain traction.

Just some of the things I would have shared with my friends however...they were not really interested. They've got this covered...

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It's Here and We Warned You

The First Quarter is here. For many businesses it's a sobering reality for others it is full of First Quarteropportunity. Those businesses who remain aggressive in their marketing efforts will continue to build on past success. They know now is not to disappear from the consumer radar. So, how about some tips on how to better stay "top of mind" and turn the First Quarter positive:

Stay in the Game - I was visiting with a radio media professional last week who told me advertisers are starting to understand that taking the First Quarter "off" is a self fulfilling prophecy of doom. "I think the recession taught advertisers a lesson", he said. "Those advertisers who stayed in the game and continued to market their goods and services picked up market share from their competition. It used to be that, in our business, I could take a couple of weeks off in January. Today I'm at the office scheduling advertising and filling our radio inventory for January and February. These advertisers have learned that it's now a 12 month season."

Use Video - We are strong believers in video, always have been. Consumers eat it up like crazy and today there are dozens of ways to create and use video content. Studies have shown that consumers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non viewers. And, because of social media your video can be viewed and shared across a wide range of channels. If you are doing email marketing you should also be aware of the fact that when the word "video" is posted in the subject line there is a massive increase in the open rate.

Visual Content Wins - We've said it for years, "Less is More" when it comes to marketing. Consumers don't have the time (or interest) in reading long pages of copy in your print ads, on your website, in your newsletter. Use images as often as possible to drive home the point of your message. And, if you can, use organic visuals rather than stock photos. It shows you have taken the time to tell your story rather than "buying" it.

Stay Connected - You already have a firm client/customer base. Stay connected to them through your blog, newsletter and an occasional hand written note of appreciation. Staying "top of mind" means that you need to stay connected to your best customers.

Start Your Referral Marketing Campaign - I recently wrote about how to get started in referral marketing. Once again, you already have "brand warriors" out there. Now is the time to weaponize them and allow them to help influence consumers who may not know how your product/service can benefit them.

While it may be the first month of the New Year it does not mean you are too late to capture more market share in the First Quarter but...you better get started.

Thanks for reading and for more on business check out our long-form business interviews from Insight on Business the News Hour our Monday - Friday 5:00 PM broadcast.

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