Bring Your Brand to Life

Through the Power of Story

Category: Internet Marketing

What’s The Shortest Distance Between You and Your Customer?

The latest social media figures reveal there are:

  • 751 million Facebook users
  • 288 million monthly twitter users
  • 238 million LinkedIn users

SmartPak says that Facebook is the number 7 revenue referrer to their website. If you visit the SmarkPak Facebook page, you’ll find nearly 110,000 fans come there to find answers to common problems on equestrian care.

So how can you harness those millions of social media numbers to generate more revenue for your business?

Simple: SmartPak uses Facebook as a place for customers to vent their problems and frustrations. SmartPak listens, and uses that information to build web content that solves problems, positioning SmartPak as a leader, and an advocate to the industry.

How can you get those Facebook and twitter users to share your stories, and promote your brand? What’s the secret to getting users to actively engage with you online and spread the word?

Southwest airlines did not gain 1.61 million (so far) twitter followers through a well-crafted about me page. Instead, Southwest Airlines knows the power of story, and that actions speak louder than words, and used the story to create resonance with its readers.

When a client reaches out for help in building an engaging social media presence, I know I can usually find the “gold” in the customer story archives.

Stories connect people

  1. Build trust

  2. transcend generations

  3. engage our emotions

  4. inspire us, and

  5. Are contagious…social-med

Create Web Resonance And Attract More Visitors

In the same way that mechanical resonance attracts more energy, you can fine tune your web site content, turning it into resonators that attract an increasing number “hits” from the search engines.

You already know your industry’s pain points. You also know what triggers will send your customers and prospects to Google to find more insight into solving those issues. You probably can also predict the exact words your prospect will use when they fill in that Google search tab.

What you may not know is this:

Where will Google place your web site on that search results list?

Before making any purchasing decisions, people consume an average of 10.4 sources of information, according to Google research. This is up from 5.3 sources in just 2010.

Too often, businesses view their web pages as simply a virtual storefront, allowing visitors to browse your product selections, customer testimonials, client list and personnel. But when a customer has a problem to solve, these items are frivolous bits of information. Yes, you hope this data will become important later on in the sales cycle, but that’s only if you’ve laid the groundwork first.

Right now, in this initial data gathering phase of the sales cycle, the customer is focused on gathering data, and discerning which one of the companies on this Google search results page will do the best job of solving this problem. Prospects are looking to find resonance. Have you shown evidence that you are truly tuned into the industry and its current challenges?

Company press releases and notices of recent promotions do not fit the bill. Instead, your website should include a revolving door of current blog posts that encourage insight, collaboration and solutions within the industry.

  • What is the COO’s take on the latest government mandate?
  • How will the latest tax law impact your industry?
  • How are you re-engineering your services to meet the changing economic climate to make your product more affordable to your clients?
  • What are your predictions for the industry, and how can we prepare for them now?

This is the type of content that readers like to share on social sites, bookmark for future reference and email to colleagues. This is the kind of content that builds credibility, while simultaneously lifting your search engine ranking within Google.

Get Them to Contact You After the First Visit To Your Website

When prospects want to learn about you and your products, the first place they head to for more information is your website. You may have gorgeous graphics, catchy phrases and easy navigation – but that’s not going to convince them to stay, and contact you.

If you’re clever, you will anticipate your prospects’ need even before they open the browser. Follow the example of these four companies to be ready with the exact information they’re looking for.

Just open this webpage to Canon USA for a picture-perfect example. Instantly you’ll notice right smack in the middle of the page is a virtual slide show with entrancing headlines:

  • Counterfeit Accessories are more destructive than you think. “learn more…”
  • Cannon Education: In-depth tutorials, education and more… “learn more….”

If you’ve spent, or are considering spending, a significant amount of money and time on copy machines or photography, how could you resist learning more about these topics?

A quick visit to the web page of FedEx, (one of the Most Reputable Companies of 2013), instantly reveals timeliness – with its “Quick Access” login, FedEx reinforces its reputation and image as the one who keeps tabs on the pulse of its packages. – The customer says, “Yes – show me how much it will cost me to get my package there!”

When you open the Stanley Black and Decker homepage, you’ll see a live feed of news and broadcasts and several links to analysis and investor reports. Clearly, Stanley knows investors frequent their website, and Stanley is catering to these important visitors by making it easy for investors and reporters to find exactly what they need – fast. Notice, also, Stanley’s emphasis on safety — this reassures not only buyers, but investors as well.

Kellogg’s website draws readers in with links to nutrition, offers for a free book, and of course printable coupons.

Each website example I’ve listed here has clearly identified it’s prospects, and has provided an offer to give each visitor something valuable and unique. The key is to use your website to fill a need the prospect wants – as soon as your page is opened. The customer is actively engaged, willing to fill out any online-necessary online forms and quick to join any social media outlets the company offers.

If you’d like help in doing the same, contact us.

Gmail Has Made the Risk of Missing an Important Email Too High: How to Get Your Non-Tabbed Inbox Back

Over the past week, Google has introduced new “tabs” to its Gmail inbox. No longer can we see our entire list of emails on one page — but we have to select a tab to see all of our mail. The mail has been automatically filtered into different lists — and guess who organized the list? Gmail. Gmail has decided it knows, better than we know, which email messages are:

  • Priority
  • Social
  • Promotions
  • Updates
  • Forums

I couldn’t even venture at guessing which of the emails I read could be classified for any of these categories — would news about the promotion I’m writing for The Green Mountain Coffee company be consided priority — or would Gmail assume it was a non-essential promotion? Gmail already has “filters” in place, which allows us to pre-select keywords in emails to filter particular messages into user-created lists. This feature has been working fine for years — so why the change?  Giving Gmail control of the filtering is madness. The risk of missing an important email is running too high.

Getting your old inbox back, without the tabs, isn’t just a wish — it’s a matter of effiency. It’s to see the inbox, at a glance, and without worrying that something important isn’t here, because it’s in the wrong, Gmail-genereated tab.

Here’s how to get your old non-tabbed Gmail inbox back.

Open your gmail inbox, and over to the right hand side is a little gears button.

gmail tabs001

Click on that little arrow, and you will get a drop-down menu that looks like this:

gmail tabs002You will want to click on the words that say, “Configure Inbox.”

Click there, and a smaller window will open up:

gmail tabs003


Here, you can “select tabs to enable.” If you want to have all of your email in one list — just select one tab. I’ve chosen “Primary.”

Hit save, and the box will disappear, and all of your emails will appear under the priority tab.

Finding Followers, Expanding Influence

The quickest way to effectively ramp up your FB/Twitter/LI following is by seeking out people who are most likely to care about what you’re putting out there — your target audience, customers, colleagues, others in your industry — and follow them.  But who are they?

Finding the right people to follow isn’t always easy to do, when you consider the 145+ million SM users, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, and it can be a major time eater. You can always invite Fans via your address book from the Facebook icon — however, it’s a good idea to add some quality content first. Invite them once you have started to add some more content, stories and news updates, to your page.

It’s important not to overstretch your SM program with updates that only self-promote you. Give your followers quality content, without always asking them for a sale. Your SM campaign cannot consist only of customer success stories and news releases about AccBen — you’ll need to include some relevant industry news too.

Most important, however, is to remember to keep SM active and responsive, and to focus on the relationship part of social networking. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the more you put into the process, the more you will get out of it.

I’ve refined and streamlined the process of developing a SM following to save time, and to build a quality network.  I usually follow these steps:

  1. What the Trend: Shows you what’s trending on Social Media and why.  This is a great way to search for users who tweet about specific topics, and get your own account found when someone else searches.
  2. Industry analysts/reporters. These are found by looking at the bios of relevant stories in trade publications and subscribing to their Social Networks. We want these sources to follow you, — and they probably need to follow you (they need the stories!). Let them know your SM activity. .
  3. Who else do the industry analysts/reporters follow? A goldmine of potential followers.
  4. Once you begin posting regularly on LinkedIn, FB and are active on Twitter, you will naturally find a steady a steady stream of people who like you, retweet you and mention you in LinkedIn. Although you may already be following some of these people, these likes and tweets can make you aware of new people you should be following.
  5. Invite your friends go to your business page via your address book. Again, it’s important to wait until your page has a collection of solid content.
  6. Sharing a page. This can be done with the customer success stories, as well as any other page on the web that you believe could benefit your followers. We can create a great deal of SM synergy by cross promoting customer success stories, via SM with our customers.
  7. Offering an incentive. A great way to encourage friends to ‘like’ your page is by offering an incentive. This might be a free ebook, a complimentary analysis,  — whatever it is that you can offer so it connects to your business.
  8. As your followers begin to grow, look at their profiles and examine their own SM network. This gives you a new collection of people to analyze to determine if these might be good followers.

If you would like me to help you handle all or part of this, contact me. I’ll be happy to put together a proposal for you, based on your needs.

Is Your Facebook Page Flatlining?

So many businesses have created their Facebook pages, their LinkedIn Accounts, and have fiddled around with Twitter. Yet, their Social Media business is still flat-lining… and they can’t figure out why. Perhaps they need to tweet more often — or maybe they need to analyze what time of day journalists are reading tweets? Maybe they need more photos to upload onto Facebook? In vain, they’re struggling, trying to find that magic formula that will bring new business rolling in, via Social Media.

All successful marketing campaigns are built on a good story. Customers want an excuse to buy your products — and primarily — the compelling reason they want is to create an emotional connection with you. Master Card does it with their “Priceless” campaign. Nike tells you to “Just Do It,” and we all know a Kodak moment when we see one.

Your company’s signature “emotional connection” will evolve over time — it should, if you are responding to the market, to your customer and to the environment. The fertile ground for capturing and developing those emotional nuances is the story. And your company blog is the ideal place to capture those stories. Customer success stories, historical dates that are pivotal in your comapny’s history, a crisis that was averted — or handled well. (Who were the heroes that day?) New products and why — those are the stories that should be filling your comapny’s blog — creating a timeline of your company’s footprint in the industries you serve.

So many businesses try to create a shortcut out of doing the hard work of sitting down and fleshing out the story… building the book that is your company. They want to open up the Facebook page, throw up a photo and say, “look at our new product.” Every FB update worth reading has a bigger story behind the photo — and it’s your job to get that story, and let your social media feed off your story.

Your company blog is the resource of your SM accounts. Your blog posts should have enough meat to drive your tweets, your FB updates, and your LinkedIn updates. In the classroom, think of your SM accounts as the Cliff Notes version of what’s really happening behind the doors at your company. The real novel, can be found in the blog.

Not only with your blog stories give you the foundation for building your SM activities — it’s good to know that this is the primary place journalists still go to find information about you. Check out this latest research from Ragan’s PR Daily.



Where Consumers are Finding the Facts About You

How accessible is your business in the sphere of social media? More importantly, how current are your social media updates? Consumers are peering into your social networks to learn more about you. A Facebook page, or Twitter page with sparse updates looks like a ghost town to a consumer seeking the latest information on your product.

The tide has changed — social media pages are the premiere resource for consumers looking for information on brands, companies and products. According to a study done by OTX Research on behalf of DEI worldwide entitled “The Impact of Social Media on Purchasing Behavior“, seventy percent of consumers visit social media websites. Forty-nine percent make a purchasing decision on what they learn from these social media sites — such as social message boards, Facebook, Twitter, and your company blog. (When was your last post?!)

Here’s a PDF of the complete report:
The Impact of Social Media on Purchasing Behavior

Social Media Creates Transparency

Most businesses today have adopted a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and certainly a web page. Online media, for some businesses, is viewed simply as a modestly effective marketing tool, that certainly makes it easier for customers to find their hours, and location. Yet, there is much more brewing below the surface, as I discussed last week. Social media makes the actions of a business more transparent… and when customers, people outside the company can create blog posts, facebook entries and tweets that impact a large circle of people, businesses can be vulnerable.

Some businesses have learned the hard way that social media brings a dramatic, forceful impact on the company image.

It will be interesting to see how social media will impact those companies once tainted with scandal. Glencore International, the long-held private Swiss-based commodity trading powerhouse, a name tied to allegations of bribery, corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations, is now opening themselves up to the investing public.

Will Glencore change its business practices in an effort to gain public investors? Companies desiring to gain our trust will need to be believable through sustained efforts.

We might like what we see. As part of Disneyland’s green initiative, their trains run on bio-diesel made with cooking oil from the resort’s hotels. The Columbus-based restaurant, Park Creek Kitchen is committed to using products from Ohio farmers.


Some of the strongest companies will emerge from those brands that connect the public and the personal in today’s financially-strained economy.

Adapted from my column for the SNP.

Social Media Demands Responsibility

Most businesses today have adopted a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and certainly a web page. Online media, for some businesses, is viewed simply as a modestly effective marketing tool, that certainly makes it easier for customers to find their hours, and location. Yet, there is much more brewing below the surface, as I discussed last week.

Each week we mention specific brands more than 90 times in our conversations. Seventy one percent of us claim reviews from family members or friends exert a great deal of influence on purchases.

Now our conversations are happening online, and our stories have the potential to spread as quickly and as wide as wildfire. This on-line shift has set a spark under the board room chairmen of businesses, as they are beginning to realize they can no longer hide behind a glossy, expensive ad campaign designed to convince consumers to buy their products.

Today’s new marketing departments are less focused on ads, and are more focused on how to build relationships with their customers, as collaborative partners, gathering insight to create a lifetime, two-way interpersonal relationship.

If a business wants to develop a raving following of high-value customers, they can begin by leveraging their social networks to actively search for complaints, and work hard on modifications to make it right. If we’ve had a bad experience with a product, customer service is usually the last place we go — we usually head straight to our Facebook page.

But this is a two-way relationship. If social media has made it possible for a business to build a relationship with us, the company must give something back to us in return. Now we can easily find out how authentic its values really are. Read more about how some businesses are using their social media platforms to help their, sometimes tattered, images shine. Read more about those companies here.

Adapted from my column for the SNP.