March 2014 Archives

While it might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, over the last few years parallax scrolling has become one of the most trendy ways to design a website.

No matter whether you run a business-to-consumer or business-to-business company, you want to make sure you have a fresh, memorable website that showcases what it is your business does.

At Ripley PR, we often work with clients on website design as part of a comprehensive B2B public relations strategy, so we like to stay up on trends like parallax scrolling.

So what exactly is parallax scrolling?

Basically, using parallax scrolling creates an immersive, 3D experience when you're scrolling through a website.

It's become popular enough that some websites are overwhelming, but when used well, it can make your web browsing experience really enjoyable.

Spotify is one example of a site that uses subtle parallax scrolling well.

Another is the visually stimulating site for the Academy Award-winning movie "Life of Pi."

Life-of-Pi-Screenshot.png

Parallax scrolling on the "Life of Pi" website causes the images on the screen to change as you scroll down

As you can see, a website with parallax scrolling requires a lot of creativity and complex coding ability.

Some might argue the market is saturated with sites like this, but we believe that it can be useful for many companies looking to build a brand.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

The types of content you share on social channels work together to communicate with your audience, and the most effective content strategies are those that are focused on bringing value to the audience, not in pushing sales.

Each piece of content should be related to your company's industry and do one of five things:

  • inspire your audience
  • inform your audience
  • motivate your audience
  • educate your audience
  • entertain your audience

Each of these five things is beneficial to your audience in one way or another, and depending on the company some work better than others.

There are many types of content you can use that will accomplish those five goals, and ideally in the course of a week, for example, post content might achieve all five.

Consider the following types of content to include in your strategy:

Audio/Visual
Consider media such as videos and images. People love to be visually engaged. Consider creating unique infographics, photo postcards or videos. Stay away from "commercial" advertising videos and focus on videos that help your audience, such as how-to tutorials or web TV episodes. Entertaining (and audience-appropriate) clips from YouTube can also generate a good response.

Quotes
Look around for quotes by other experts in your industry. Consider adding these quotes to images to make them more visual. Sharing quotes from one of your own experts can be very effective, as well, and it magnifies your brand expertise.

Articles
Locate articles that would be of benefit to your audience. LinkedIn ; is a great resource, as well as other news sites. Blog directories like alltop.com grant access to large quantities of current articles.

It is also very important to create original articles that would be showcased on your company blog. These, more than anything, provide an opportunity to showcase your company's expertise and provide a valuable service to your audience. Post these articles on your company blog and share on social networks. This is also one of the best ways to direct people to your website.

There are many, many types of content that accomplish the five goals that will benefit your audience. For example:

  • Illustrations

  • Quotes

  • Infographics

  • Memes

  • Articles

  • How-to's

  • Photos

  • Videos

  • Statistics

  • SlideShare presentations

  • Facts

  • Stories

  • Blogs

  • Press releases

  • News

  • Jokes

  • And more

Once you identify the types of content that work best for your company, posts must be created for unique audiences on each social network. The same content should not go out to every social network because users want different things.

Find out more about how to create content that will engage users on unique platforms by clicking here.

Remember that creating and distributing content is only one part of the social media communication process. In order for your social media to be effective, your company has to be listening to its audience. You must monitor what's happening, respond to their posts, engage with them, deliver superior customer service, and consistently tailor your strategy so that your content is most effective.

JD Power released their list of top 50 2014 Customer Champions. Who are these companies?

JD Power looked at over 600 companies across nine industries, focusing on five factors that JD Powers refers to as the "Five P's": People, Presentation, Price, Process and Product.

JD-Power-2014.png

These companies excel in providing outstanding customer service, according to its customers, not only in their industry, but overall. Finbarr O'Neil, President of JD Power, says that ""Not only does satisfaction encourage customer loyalty, but happy customers also become advocates of the brand to others. Particularly given the ability of today's consumers to easily communicate their experiences far and wide through social media and online reviews, customer advocacy can be critical to a company's bottom line."

Companies who achieve this status find that it all starts with hiring - finding the right people to promote a customer centric environment, training the staff to be able to make decisions that allow them to solve customer issues quickly and independently, and providing an environment that promotes longevity in the workplace.

Another key aspect these companies share is listening - listening to both customer and employee feedback to find ways to improve the customer experience.

By employing these standards, companies create satisfied customers who are not only loyal in terms of repeat business, but also for being brand advocates through word of mouth. This is important for companies, especially when it comes to social media and its relevance when it comes to customer experiences. The chart below is from the JD Power study, and shows the percentage of consumers who will be likely to return to a business and recommend it - you can see the stark difference in percentages between those companies on the Champion list and those that are not:

JD-Best-in-Class.png

Companies can mirror what the champions do in terms of careful planning from the ground up to ensure that their customer service is top notch.

Taking a close look at what these companies do compared to your company's procedures, making adjustments where needed, is a good first step in focusing on your customers' overall experience and satisfaction.

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Selling is explaining & educating  your audience on their important problems.

And you have solutions.

Selling with stories is old, even though now we call it content marketing.

Brief History of Content Marketing Infographic.jpg

To be good at content marketing, selling solutions with stories, you have to overcome these problems.

  • Too few people visit your website and read your blog

  • You don't have a good email list to send to

  • You spent money on SEO, it failed

  • You tried to Self-distribute & it was too hard.

We can help you find people who could do business with you, start here.

In the early 1950s, marketing geniuses at the Guinness Brewery began distributing a book to pub-goers that they hoped would settle debates and bar bets once-and for all.

The Guinness Book of World Records was given free of charge to local bars as a marketing gimmick to generate publicity for the Brewery. 

The results of the campaign were a huge success, making history and becoming one of the bestselling books of all time.

By the mid-1950s, hundreds of brands were developing storylines and characters to entertain TV audiences each night as families gathered around their sets to watch their favorite shows.  Brands like Coca-Cola, Chef Boyardee, and Betty Crocker became household favorites, and TV viewers began stocking their kitchens with these well-known products.

For decades advertisers have effectively and profitably promoted products and services to potential customers in spaces where their audiences gathered.   

TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers have been traditional advertising platforms for many years, and now with digital platforms, like websites, search engines, and social media, expanding at record pace, marketers are having to finding "new" ways to reach and impact their audiences.

Many marketers, media outlets, and social platforms are turning to a buzzword called "native advertising." 

Seen as an effective advertising concept in the past, native advertising is non-interruptive, paid content that is embedded into an editorial copy.  

In the space where advertisers typically had to pay for the right to disrupt content or editorial copy, with native advertising, companies are paying to be part of the conversation.

It works especially well for business-to-consumer companies looking to become household names, but if you're a business-to-business company, you can certainly make use of native advertising as well as part of your B2B public relations and marketing strategy.

Even if you don't typically deal directly with consumers, making your name known is still helpful for helping you find customers, franchisees, or anyone else who helps you do business.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the six types of native ads highlighted in  IAB Native Advertising Playbook include:

  1. In-Feed Units (such as Facebook's ads with a social context)

  2. Paid search

  3. Recommendation widgets (often seen as "From Around the Web")

  4. Promoted listings (Etsy, Amazon, Google, etc.)

  5. Standard ads with native elements (banner or box with text or placed at beginning of post)

  6. Custom campaigns created with the client (Spotify, Pandora, Tumblr, etc.)

These updated tried-and true initiatives are profiting hundreds of media outlets and social sites.  Think about the last time you saw a promoted post on Facebook, a list of "suggested" followers on Twitter, or a celebrity promoting their favorite product in a testimonial video on your favorite website. This oldie but goodie phenomenon is very profitable for a number of media platforms, and with the Wall Street Journal joining the native moment last week and joining other media outlets like Time Magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, native advertising is here to stay.

Adding native advertising to your marketing and public relations strategy can benefit a business; however, it's important to remember two elements:  measurement and transparency.

Native Advertising Measurement - Identifying what to measure in a native advertising campaign can vary; however, the key is to develop strong Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during the planning process of the campaign. KPIs may include reviewing time someone spent with the content and what actions they took. Actions can include: "liking" something on Facebook, "retweeting" a post on Twitter, or even making an ecommerce transaction. These are good metrics to measure.  The important step in identifying KPIs early in planning process, is that the content is created with the KPI in mind.

Native Advertising Transparency - Including key words like "Sponsored By" or "Presented By" are key aspects of native advertising.  Online news publications and social sites require the transparency between editorial and advertising, and these key phrases are requirements into including within native advertising.

With native advertising old things are new again, even if the "new" is evolving and developing at an incredible speed.

At Ripley PR, we believe in developing strategic public relations and marketing strategies for businesses, and this always includes creating engaging content that impacts your audiences.  If your company would like help with creating a successful B2B public relations and marketing strategy that will engage your audience more, please contact the experts at Ripley PR.

Whether you're searching the Internet for fitness advice, the best restaurants in your area, marketing tips for your business, or historical facts about the city you live in, you are more likely to click on a list that neatly provides you information than a long article.

List articles have become increasingly popular over the last several years. Entire websites are dedicated to content of this nature, and although often associated with entertainment, these pieces are also incredibly valuable marketing tools.  Publishing 'Top 5′ articles is a great way to spice up your content marketing calendar.

Here are five reasons why:

1.) Variety:

These pieces can be about anything; ranging from specific tips and advice about your business, to interesting facts and knowledge from your industry. This allows room for creativity and makes you a leader in your field.

2.) Concise:

Lists deliver information with clarity and are easy to scan. If you are a business that specializes in a particular area of service, provides unique products, or has a distinctive knowledge of a subject, these articles are the perfect way to deliver your message with precision.

3.) Accessible:

These articles appeal to everyone. Men and women of all ages and demographics can read the summarizing lists and gain value from your content. That accessibility means that it can be applied to a number of audiences and reach customers who may have normally been outside of your scope.

4.) Creativity:

These articles present the opportunity to enrich your content marketing with multimedia, allowing you to craft engaging and unique pieces. Your lists are not limited to text; they can be pictures, video, '.gifs', and more. Multimedia rich content will drastically improve your SEO, as well as appeal to a wider audience.

5.) Effectiveness:

These articles attract readers. The fact that you are reading this article now proves this point. They are engaging and provide digestible facts about virtually anything pertaining to your business. List articles can be applied both directly and indirectly to your business, making them extremely effective for building your online presence.

Keep these top five tips in mind next time you're planning your content marketing calendar and trying to brainstorm effective content ideas for your next blog post or whitepaper.

The post 5 Reasons Why 'Top 5′ Articles Provide Effective Content Marketing appeared first on LocalVox.

Just like email marketing, businesses are always trying to find the "magic bullet" when it comes to getting in front of your customers on social media sites. Everything has shifted over time, and the infographic below presents some interesting statistics on the "best" times to post on each of the social media sites.

Some of it is common sense....for LinkedIn, it's during the work week, when people are at their jobs and engaged in professional networking. Avoid Mondays or Fridays though? Mondays I'd have to agree with - everyone is coming back to the work world and trying to gear up for a new week.

Fridays, though, may be another story, especially later afternoon. It's the end of the week, and often times a great time to catch someone in their office, in front of their computer. They may be suffering from early stages of "weekend-itis" and find themselves surfing online, particularly LinkedIn. However, if your goal is to create relationships as part of the selling process, Friday isn't a great time after all - your interaction may be forgotten come Monday.

Facebook and Pinterest statistics are particularly interesting....weekends used to be "the" time to post on Facebook, with the thinking that that's when customers are most engaged with social media. However, it's now being deemed as the time to avoid. On the other hand, Pinterest's peak usage seems to be Saturday mornings.

In looking at this infographic, it seems like Google+ and LinkedIn are akin to the morning paper when it comes to social media - these are the sites that have high traffic during the start of a workday, whereas Facebook and Twitter seem to be most often used during that "slow time" of the day, particularly between 2-4pm when employees can tend to become less focused on work and get into the midday slump.

Just like with email marketing though, there's really no "magic bullet" - it's great to understand traffic on each of the social media sites you use for marketing and sales purposes, but tying that in to what your customers and prospects do online can hone in on your own "best time."

social-media-best-time.jpg

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

A couple of weeks ago, I was startled to receive an email from Drayton Bird.

Actually, it was from one of his talented associates, Gerald Woodgate.

Gerald promised to: "reveal the biggest mistake so many websites make"

Ok, say I to myself, what mistake could we be making that was so bad?

Joe and I have only been doing this for about 12 years.

Some clever SEO tactic?

Some shrewd backlinking strategy?

mistake.jpg

Nope, what Gerald told me was so shocking and simple, I couldn't believe that Joe and I missed it!

If you are blogging, content marketing, or just writing & you are trying to sell your services, don't make this mistake --any more.

1. First, what is wrong with this picture?

Here is a week's worth of analytics, from March 7th to March 17th, 2014, for a great post Nancy Friedman wrote: The New Rules of Email Etiquette

Collect Names.png

Ok, so what does this tell us?

Nancy had 528 readers, each who spent more than 4:30 minutes reading what she had to say about the New Rules of Email Etiquette.

In ten days, Nancy could have had 528 leads.

But, she did not get those leads --because Joe and I are committing the terrible mistake Gerald warned us about!

2. Our Terrible Mistake - Don't You Make the Same One!

When someone comes to your office, do you offer to exchange business cards?

Or do you shoo them out the door?

No, it would be rude not.

To offer the ritual exchange - it's part of just being pleasant.

But, as Gerald wrote to us: Joe and I are being rude on our website.

What did we offer those people who read Nancy's article & were interested in what Nancy had to say?

Nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

Nothing to see here - just move on.

You see, we made the mistake Gerald warned us about.

What is the terrible error?

---- Not capturing the names and email addresses of interested readers

3. So, Make an Offer to An Interested Reader Who Wants to Buy from You Sometime

Here is exactly what Gerald said, so shocking & simple.

"Remember: People buy when they want to, not when you want them to.

So if you're not in touch with them you'll miss the boat when they're ready.

When you're collecting names and / or email addresses you know when someone's interested in what you do.

After all, they wouldn't have given you their details if they weren't.

All you have to do is persuade them to buy from you. Not one of the competition.

And when you're the one in regular contact with them ... helping them ... advising them ...

Well, who do you think they'll buy from?"

People buy on their schedule & not when your bank account needs them to. So keep in touch.

Oh yeah, you cannot keep in touch unless you have their name and email.

4. And Joe & I Can do Better for You at Franchise-Info, I thought.

Here is what your supplier or vendor directory directory listing will have.

1. Tracking of click-thrus. How many people went to your landing page from our directory?

2. Sharing of Information. Give us your Google analytics, even your own custom code, and we will embed the code into the page. Then, share the information with you.

Since this will be the best Supplier or Vendor directory, we are only going to charge you $97/month. The best deal you can find.

5. But that's not all. We have much more for you.

We are going to give you a way of filtering & separating the prospects from the suspects.

We are going to give you our LinkedIn Verified/Qualified lead program.

Yup, not only do you get tracking, sharing, you get real leads .

Ready for you to sell to.

Yes, I want More Qualified Leads!

If design is what attracts others to your site, content is what will make them stay! For this post in the "6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program" series, we'll go over the importance of a targeted partner content marketing strategy and what it entails to get it right!

As you may know by now, a blog that's constantly updated can generate up to 7 times more traffic than a static site! Not only that but, according to Content+, 60% of customers feel more positive about a company after they've read custom content in their site!

So, to sum it up, partner marketing is great for your online presence and to engage potential customers! If you need more reasons why you should include partner content marketing in the web marketing strategy for your co-op marketing program, here they are:

  • Shows the Human and Caring Side of Your Company

  • Connects with the Audience at a Local Level

  • Drives SEO and Potential Leads

  • Increases Your Authority in a Subject and in the Industry

What Partner Content Marketing Entails

1. Topic Inspiration

The first thing about content marketing has to do with what will you write about. Your partners need targeted topics that make sense for the strategy that corporate has set for them. Producing new post ideas constantly can be tiring, but you can always help out your partners' content efforts, and even share some renewable sources of inspiration they could dig into.

2. Editorial Calendar

After your partners have an idea of what they'll write about, they should put together an editorial calendar to stay organized in their strategy. In it, they can plan out when and what they'll be posting about. Just remember to make sure they update it constantly so they aren't lost on where they are and where they should go.

3. Producing the Content

Now, the tricky part. Actually producing blog posts requires some technique, skill, expertise, and time to produce a quality, well written, targeted article that people would want to read.

Content marketing is extremely time consuming and, if they don't pay close attention to what they're doing, the results won't be as great as expected. On that note, make sure your partners will create compliant but targeted content by sharing guidelines with them!

Once your partners are done with producing juicy content, it's time to make the articles readable, and images can really help you out there. Remember, even though content is meant to give your boost your SEO efforts, it's of no use if potential customers aren't reading it!

4. Optimization

The last thing I do before posting a new article, is make sure that my content is SEO ready. There are a bunch of steps to consider in this. To sum it up, your partners would want to proofread their article, make sure keywords are present in a coherent but consistent way, add tags to links and images, and take care of the page title and meta data, among other things!

How Empowerkit Can Help

Indeed, content is great and it's crucial if you want to launch a successful partner web marketing strategy in your co-op marketing program! But, let's face it, it can be a big hassle and it's probable that your partners won't get it right due to the fact that they're busy people trying to keep their local unit above the water! If your staff doesn't have the time to create the content, that's OK.

We'll do it for you! A dedicated copywriter will work with you to write content for your site! We'll produce compliant content that makes sense for each partners' specific audience! Plus, we have a library of thousands of images that you can use on your site for free! All our images have been hand-picked for your partners' small businesses! They liven up the partner sites and their content.

Remember that your partners will be able to call us at 510.859.8452 anytime they'd like to make an update to their site! So, even if they have limited technical skills don't have the time, they can contact us directly to make new content updates. This way there will be no more excuses for your partners not succeeding online!

Conclusion

Partner content is one of the most important tactics to have a successful web marketing program! Many companies neglect it for fear of brand compliance issues or the fact that their partners don't have the time/expertise to take care of it. Still, as the Internet becomes a larger platform, more companies will have to move their brand online and use content marketing as a way to provide value and increase their rank, so why not get a head start and do it now? If you're not sure how you and your partners should go about it, there are always ways for you to collaborate and create a compliant content marketing strategy that makes sense for local audiences! To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: SetupDesign,  Social MediaOff Site SEOAnalytics. Have a question about Empowerkit or this post? Let us know in the comment section! 

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Partner Content Marketing appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

Most franchisors have robust franchise marketing plans in place for the franchise that revolve around advertising. The marketing programs are usually mandatory and pool funds from all of the franchisees within the franchise.

The national marketing plan typically includes advertising campaigns, email marketing, television and radio commercials, Internet advertising, social media around the central brand, public relations, and direct mail campaigns - all assets that aren't at the core owned local media channels.

National marketing campaigns that are funded through franchisee fees are great for producing high quality marketing collateral that normally wouldn't be financially feasible for a business owner generating less than several million dollars per year in profit and they ensure brand consistency.

1. Local Franchise Marketing

Many times franchisees are also permitted to execute local marketing campaigns that meet the franchisors parameters and guidelines. In most cases approval from the franchisor is required prior to moving forward with the local marketing plan - creating additional overhead and requiring local marketing sophistication for the franchisee.

More often than not, franchisees need to address local marketing, as the franchisor is focusing on promoting the company on a national level. Currently, well more than half of franchisees are not happy with the marketing support they receive from the franchisor.

Below are some interesting facts that summarize the franchisor and franchisee marketing gap:

  • 64% of franchisees are dissatisfied with the marketing support they receive.

  • 53% of marketing executives at franchise firms believe marketing is critical to the franchise's success

  • 88% of franchisees see locally synchronized national campaigns as a competitive advantage

  • National brands miss 86% of the feedback on social media channels

Potbelly Sandwich Works has managed to build their marketing plan around local marketing. Potbelly offers local organizations and charities the ability to use their locations to host events, as well as a stage for local musicians. The company also does an excellent job managing their social media profiles.

As you can see from the Tweet below, Potbelly is responding on behalf of the company, but is representing the Burlington, MA location. Tweets like this build loyalty.

Potbelly.jpg

Potbelly recently retweeted a Thrilliest Chicago post that highlights their secret menu. Not only does it promote the Chicago locations, but also builds excitement around their secret menu.

Potbelly_ii.jpg

2. Integrating Franchise Marketing with Local Marketing is Key

In summary, it's crucial to localize the marketing message wherever possible, and to empower local specific messaging at a regional or single location.

A successful franchise marketing budget should allocate a portion of the budget to focus on local online marketing, and not just advertising within a region (as less than 2% of local businesses think pay per click advertising is effective).

The messaging needs to be tailored to the region, while considering the area's demographics and culture, and fit into the dynamics of franchise brand control and local franchisee enablement - no small feat.

For a path to a successful local franchise marketing strategy, check out our most recent franchise whitepaper, Who Owns Local Marketing? Examining the Franchisor/Franchisee Gap.

The white paper explores how multi-unit enterprises and franchises can monetize local Internet marketing and how to narrow the growing gap between corporate HQ and their local retail locations.

The post Successful Franchise Marketing Starts with a Local Marketing Strategy That Aligns the Franchisee with the Franchisor [Whitepaper Included] appeared first on LocalVox.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

These days, companies are using social media like never before.

It's an incredible tool for offering coupons and promotions, letting your customers know about new products or services, and simply interacting with the public to get an idea of what they like and don't like about your business.

But with our mobile world making it easier to make posts on social media accounts at any time of the day or night, it can also come back to haunt you.

At Ripley PR, we encourage all of our clients, even business-to-business companies, to be active on social media.

Whatever your customer base is, they are very likely to be using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn - and they may be on other social media sites as well, such as Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest.

We provide crisis training as part of a B2B public relations strategy for each of our clients, and in recent years, more companies have dealt with fallout from social media crises. So how can you avoid such a fate?

Consider these simple tips to communicate effectively on social media.

  • Be careful what you post. Anyone is susceptible to high emotions in the face of criticism or negative attention, but in the business world, you must be especially careful about what you say. Social media is not the best place to air grievances about customer complaints, or to call out or insult any detractors you might have. Just like you should before you speak - you should also think before you post. If you do feel the need arise to respond to a negative comment by a customer or follower, don't do so right away, especially if you're angry. Let your emotions settle, and then think it through carefully; perhaps even ask a second person to look at the post before you send it into the ether.

  • Have a social media policy in place. Whether you have one person posting to your company social media pages or a dozen, having a protocol for best practice will ensure that any posts will meet company standards. That policy can extend to employees' personal accounts as well - make sure they know what is and isn't acceptable social media behavior.

  • Watch your reputation. This requires being alert to news stories about your company, hashtags, and other references to your name. You can set up Google Alerts for certain keywords related to your business and industry, and follow tags that might have an impact on you. That way, if you do see a negative reputation starting to develop, either for your company specifically or your business in general, you can figure out the best way to resolve complaints and keep them from spreading further. And your customers will appreciate your efforts to keep them satisfied.

As you can see, social media can be an incredible marketing tool, but if handled improperly, it can have disastrous consequences. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out on social media, and your company can be a good example of social marketing, rather than a bad one.

A recent report estimated that over 300 billion emails are sent each day! Spam messages are jamming in-boxes across the globe and the average business person now gets over 100 emails a day.

While no one denies the obvious productivity gains we've realized from the efficiencies of email communication, many people find themselves drowning in all these messages.

Here are eight tips that will make your email communications more effective.

1. Practice being clear and concise with your message.

You'll save time and your reader will appreciate it.

  • Consider using bulleted points to clearly express your thoughts.

  • Everyone has a different style of how they intake information.

  • Email communication works best if you clearly outline the points you're trying to get across in an easy to understand format.

Investing extra time while authoring an email pays big dividends by giving your reader a clear understanding of your message. Remember, if your email is written with the purpose to educate, inform or persuade, then making sure to get your point across is even more critical.

With the sheer volume of email messages most business people receive, there's an inverse relationship between the volume of text and successfully making the point. Most people will immediately read and understand a ten sentence email. Send them a 10,000-word document and they'll likely scan the highlights, save it for later and you risk it not being read fully. People appreciate brevity. Remember, if your objective is to tell the reader what time it is, you don't need to explain how to build a clock!

2. Before sending, ALWAYS reread your message and double check for grammar and misused words.

It's obvious to most of us to use spell check after we've composed our message. You should also make it standard procedure to reread your entire message before sending. Often times, you'll notice words which have been left out, grammar that's incorrect and worst of all - words witch our spilled write butt knot used inn the write weigh. (Note, that this last sentence runs through a spell checker perfectly.) How many times have you caught something too late, making your only option to curse at your spell-checking software!

3. Copy back salient points when replying to an earlier message.

Remember that your reader likely receives hundreds of emails a week. When you combine that with face-to-face meetings and phone calls, it's dangerous to assume your recipient will remember your earlier exchange. Which of these messages has the greater chance for reader confusion?

"Sure, sounds fine... Please proceed."

Or

"Sure, sounds fine... Please proceed."

You wrote: Hi Jody, Are you okay with the proposed color scheme on the new brochure? I'd like to print it next week.

It's frustrating when someone sends you an email, with a specific answer but you're unable to recall the original issue. This problem is largely avoidable by copying a portion of the original message alluding to the context.

4. Use specific subject line descriptions.

Since many email messages go back and forth several times over the course of many weeks, it's important to accurately describe what the reader will find inside.

Considering the level of spam and anti-spam software in place today, you can't afford to risk your message not being delivered because of a generic or poorly worded subject line. A subject line such as, "What do you think" doesn't tell the recipient much. "Need suggestions for options on acct #45619 - Robinson Inc." is more specific. Remember, a legitimate message coming from your plant in Hong Kong advising you that "they've still had no luck increasing the prototype by 3 inches" is unlikely to ever make it past today's spam filters.

5. Realize that once your message is sent, it's difficult to recall.

Although some limited technology exists for recalling messages, it's not universal. It's possible to ruin their career with a single 60-second lapse in judgment, by sending the wrong message to someone.

Email is also ridiculously easy to edit and forward. Keep in mind that sending a message to one person can eventually be viewed by many other unintended parties. Always double-check the recipient line before sending any email. Horror stories about messages accidentally copied to "ALL" are becoming routine.

As a rule, it's a good idea to never put anything in writing that a reasonable person would consider to be confidential or dangerous. If your situation dictates you email such information, try to word your message in as factual and balanced a way as possible. As you write, imagine that the person you're writing about eventually sees your message. Stick to facts, not opinions.

6. Practice the 24-hour rule when you're upset.

It's never a good idea to send an email when you're angry. We've all been guilty of this. In the heat of the moment we type up a literary bombast. A message that will reduce the recipient to mush. We even reread it, and we're actually sort of proud at how powerful the wording is. We imagine the recipient opening and cringing as he/she reads our words. Then we send it.

Only later, after we calm down, we revisit the message and realize that we dramatically overreacted. But it's too late to do anything now, except apologize and try to mend fences. This is more common than you think.

If you compose an email in anger, wait a predetermined period of time before sending it. If your emotions are legit, then your issue will still be there tomorrow. But in 95% of the cases, you'll be glad you waited and toned things down after you've gain the perspective that can only come with some additional time.

7. Avoid sh-cuts and abbr. in biz email msgs.

Anyone with a teenager knows you practically need a CIA decoder chart to understand the abbreviations and shortcuts that are popular in email and text messages. These cutesy short cuts and misspellings are ill advised to use in any corporate context, no matter if your customer is external or internal. Even common shortcuts like "LOL, BRB, OMG, 2, 4, SMH and u r" are simply too casual for most business communication. What's hip to one sender can be read as flip and disrespectful by another reader. Since a casual message to a coworker could easily be forwarded, it's best to practice the same high level of professionalism no matter who you're writing to.

8. Don't Forward Viral Messages.

What's that you say? You'd only forward important messages on to your coworkers and friends? Not so fast.

Unlike obvious computer viruses that involve actual destructive code, many messages are viral in nature, in that they are purposefully crafted so you'll send them on to friends with the idea that you weren't positive if this was real but wanted to be sure they saw it just in case! Although not usually harmful, these emails prey on normally smart individuals desire to inform others.

Everyday, intelligent people who would never consider themselves gullible forward on hoax messages about:

  • Pending Congressional taxes on emails

  • Avoiding waking up in a hotel bathtub of ice - minus your kidneys

  • Easy steps for getting some of Bill Gates/Disney/AOL's money
  • How to delete viruses from your pc (which are actually legit Windows' files your system needs)

  • Child abductions at giant retailers

  • A royal widow begging you to look after her $18,000,000 if you'll just give her your bank account number.

The list goes on. If you are the recipient of an email message you think is relevant to your friends and family, run it by this test: Copy and paste a few words from the message into Google along with the word "hoax". If the returns come back showing articles claiming the message is a fake, save everyone in your address book some time by hitting the delete key! The same rule applies to jokes and pictures which would be deemed as inappropriate by your employer.*

While there may not be a silver bullet that saves us from an onslaught of never ending messages, common sense practices can make our business email correspondence more effective and productive every working day.

  • PS Unlike hoaxes and spam mentioned above, it's good etiquette to forward this article to others in your address book who will find it helpful! :- )

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

Nancy Friedman is a frequent speaker at association, corporate and franchise meetings. The author of 8 books on her service expertise, she has appeared on Fox News, CNN, Today Show, and Oprah, as well as many other shows. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today along with many major dailies. President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, she can be reached at 314-291-1012 or www.nancyfriedman.com.

For a complimentary copy of Nancy's eBook, Hidden Gems of Customer Service, please click here.

For over 12 years,  I have been active in forums, chat boards, blogs, and now on LinkedIn helping create intelligent conversations about franchising.

Here are some useful ideas about how find people who could do business with you on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has a cap of 50 groups you can join no matter what level of subscription you have. And remember the subgroups you join do not count against the maximum 50 groups allowed by LinkedIn.

Here's how LinkedIn describes their groups.

"LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts.

You can find groups to join by using the search feature at the top of your homepage or viewing suggestions of groups you may like. You can also create a new group focused on a particular topic or industry." (For more from LinkedIn see : http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1164/kw/groups)

In my experience the quality of groups ranges from well managed & moderated to abandoned & desolate. Picking groups is trial and error. I've joined groups with a high member count only to find it full of spam or little to no worthwhile activity. And I have found small member groups with terrific engagement and value.

I also manage a number of groups and one in particular gets over 100 requests to join a day and only 10% are a fit and get in. The other 90% are spammers or people with dubious LinkedIn profiles.

So what should you do to make the best of your groups and do some marketing since you are on LinkedIn for commercial purposes otherwise you'd be frolicking on Facebook looking at funny cat pictures.

  1. Join target groups where the people you could do business with are members

  2. Carefully read the group description & rules 

  3. Invite the Group Owner and Group Managers to Connect with you

  4. Introduce yourself with a brief description and why you joined the group

  5. Start engaging by gaining group credibility

    1. Scroll through the existing Discussions and add value with your comments

    2. Go to the Group Members tab and start connecting with people who fit your targets

  6. Content Marketing 

    1. Posting interesting articles - frame them with why you think the topic is read & discussion worthy 

    2. Posting your original content is better and you still need to tell people why it's read & discussion worthy

    3. Respond to people who comment on your articles

    4. Check and confirm your Discussions You Started are posting and not stuck in Moderation purgatory

Groups are where you can really showcase what you are about. And generate client/customer leads for your business or practice.

If you aren't in any groups yet join 5 and begin. 

If you been in groups for a long time go through your group inventory dumping the obvious deadenders and start talking with people who pay attention to you & want to do business with you.

Yes, content is king, but it's a demanding monarch that takes up your franchise/partners' resources (time, money) and that requires a certain level of expertise.

Granted, it can be very generous in the long run but, it can become frustrating to those seeking for immediate results.

Patience, consistency and quality are musts to get the most out of content marketing.

And let's face it, it's more than probable that your franchisee's don't have the time or interest to steer away from other tasks to sit down and write twice a month. They're trying to run a business! They need to focus on getting everything their in local units right!

Furthermore, in an effort to get the content task over with, they may rush the writing process and produce mediocre blog posts! On the other hand, I'm sure you've heard that locally relevant content is a great way to engage audiences and to climb the SEO ladder, which improves visibility, lead generation and ROI.

So, if you're in it to win it, it's probable that you don't want to miss the opportunity to have targeted content on your partner sites! If your channel partners are stretched thin but you would like them to improve their lead generation online with content that will fit their specific audiences, here are a few tips that can help you help them:

1. Training Your Partners

First and foremost: there's no way a franchise marketing strategy will work if they don't even know what that is. That's why it's important to train them (even though they won't be producing content regularly). Make sure your franchise's know about content marketing, the goal you're trying to achieve with it and what role should they play in it.

2. Inspiring

Again, this is something that won't happen often but, if you'd like a targeted strategy, your partners may need to chime in from time to time. And, you can make their job a lot easier if you share topic inspiration through newsletters, as well as examples, best practices and quotes. Believe me, finding what to write about can be stressing and frustrating, so give them a hand in this aspect. You can even encourage them to read related blogs so that the post ideas are constantly flowing.

3. Offering a Helping Hand

Obviously, you'll need to help your partners with content marketing so it can be done right. First of all, aim for a more punctual approach (handing out tasks more than inspiration). You can even allow them to customize their site with easy content like: video, photos, audio, testimonials, and making little updates here and there. Furthermore, you could provide customizable templates so they can tweak certain aspects of it and target the content!

4. Taking Over

Most of the time, and since content can be very demanding, you will want to hire a team of experts to take care of content marketing for your partners. Delegating this task onto them will not only make your partners' jobs easier, but it will also guarantee better results at the end. These are people that are dedicated to content, know the business, and will do what's needed to get you, your partner sites and your company, to the top visibility spots in the search pages, while remaining compliant and locally relevant!

How Empowerkit Can Help

Empowerkit is an intuitive website builder that allows partner site management. Still, as stated in this post, partners don't have time to get away from their local units, so we're here to provide online marketing services for you and your partners! We can take over your partners content marketing and create compliant posts on a regular basis that will engage local audiences. At the same time, we can manage your channel partners' social media accounts and take care of other online marketing tactics! Give us a call (510.859.8452) and try Empowerkit out!

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