September 2014 Archives

Defining your goals is the first and most important part of your social media strategy. If you don't know why you're doing what you're doing, how in the world can you expect it to be successful?

In your business, there is likely some deeper "why" that motivates your team to succeed. It's not only the financial reward but something greater that inspires great things. The same is true for social media.

If you approach social media engagement with only the sales in mind, you're missing out on the deeper purpose. You're missing out on the opportunity to bring real value to your audience and to help them in a "no strings attached" kind of way.

If you can approach social engagement from a place that puts your customer first, then the results can be very powerful indeed. Some goals to consider might be:

  • Bring added value to our audience
  • Connect with a wider audience
  • Strengthen customer loyalty
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Connect with advocates and supporters
  • Boost brand credibility
  • Increase audience trust
  • Build relationships with your target market

Then you also have to consider what that primary "action" goal for business will be on social channels. As you begin to achieve the above goals, identify the main action you want your audience to take that will lead to customer conversions:

  • Sign up for newsletter list
  • Purchase products
  • Come in to your store
  • Visit your website
  • Call you

Your goals will dictate what pages you setup, what content you use and how you engage with your audience. So, spend the time you need to consider what you really want. It's the foundation you need for social media success.

As the impact of social media on businesses continues to grow, many franchisors are seeing the ever-increasing need for a social media policy. Your franchise public relations and branding strategy was carefully developed, and social media is an integral part of both.

To avoid brand confusion, and varying messages, a contractual policy should be developed for franchisees. When developing the franchise social media policy, it should include the following components:

  • Localized Pages: There should be a notation of whether franchisees are allowed to have localized accounts, and if so, how the page should be built - down to the title of the page, account, or group. Consistency in localization is imperative. For example, if you have a location in Plano, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee that both want localized pages, the names of those should be identical except for the city. (i.e. Franchise X - Plano & Franchise X - Memphis)
  • Approval: Whether it's approval of an account on a platform lacking a corporate account, images or contests, there should be an approval process that is laid out step by step for each scenario.
  • Branded Graphics: If graphics are not provided for branding the pages, and posts on the pages, details of the steps needed to gain the approval for those should be detailed. This should include the contact person, and how far in advance graphics should be submitted.
  • Social Media Contest Guidelines: Contest guidelines should note what kind of contests aren't allowed, if co-promotions are acceptable, and a nominal cap for contest prizes if applicable.
  • Key messages: Providing sample posts for the various platforms is a good way to ensure that Franchisees understand what is required of them.
  • Best Practices: A one-sheet of best times, days and character count for posts is a necessary guideline to guarantee that the various pages are successful.

With the ever-changing social media landscape, policies will have to be adjusted to accommodate new regulations. It is important to note in the policy document that it can be changed at any time, and should they occur, how franchisees will be notified of those changes.

Do you see a need for a social media policy for your franchise, but don't know where to start? Ripley PR specializes in franchise public relations, and has social media experts on hand to help you develop the best possible policy for your franchise that will work fluidly with your overall marketing and public relations strategy.

Joe and I were talking with one of our favorite people - who will go nameless. This person is a recognized expert.

There are other "experts" out there -some who even have books.

But this expert delivers on promises made.

"If you plan to sing your own praise, be prepared to get kicked off the stage". Susan Gale.

All experts face the same strategic problem.

How do you effectively tout or promote their skills without appearing boastful?

It's more of a pressing problem, if I hope to sell or persuade you that I am the type of expert you need to pay big money for.

You might only see an annoying showboat who deserves to get "kicked off" the stage.

"Neither blame of praise yourself" Plutarch

You could simply remain quiet and hope that referrals send you all the clients you deserve.

Quiet is nice.

Especially if you hate to hear the cash register ring.

But, the accepted tactic or response to Plutarch is to use a third party endorsement.

This works even when your client knows that you have paid for the endorsement.

How can you do this?

Hint: Use Introductions in a Strategic Manner

If you are a professional in a firm fortunate enough to have a skilled receptionist, you have an advantage over the rest of us.

Your firm has people calling the firm looking for help.

Now, with a little bit of work, you can take advantage of these inbound calls.

Give your firm's receptionist some training in reciting your bio, when he or she directs a telephone call to you.

Compare:

Oh, you want to speak with a franchise law lawyer? Well, you need to speak with Larry.

With:

"Oh, you want to speak with a franchise law lawyer. You need to speak with Larry. Larry has been practicing franchise law exclusively for over 15 years.

Or compare:

"I am going to put you through to Shelley, who is a trial lawyer.

With:

"I am going to put you through to Shelley. Shelley just won the 2014 Legal Eagle award.

You have all those impressive credentials hanging on your office wall

Hanging up where the potential client cannot see them because you are on the phone with them.

You worked hard for them, get them to work for you.

Oh, and thank Jane Austen for the tip.

"What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?" Jane Austen

(Source idea: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. Goldstein, Martin & Cialdini. Chapter 22 - How We Can Show Off what We Know without being labelled a Show Off.)

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]

What's Google Up to Now?

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First came Google+ Local, which was then transitioned to Google Places, which has now morphed into Google My Business. Google is great at letting you become familiar with their tools just before they implement a massive overhaul that forces you to change and learn a new set of tools. And repeat.

But not this time. Often Google's changes elicits groans and headaches from its users. Google My Business, which debuted in June, seems to be a welcome update that straightens out a lot of the problems people experienced with Google+ Local and Google Places.

About Google My Business

Google's definition: "A free and easy way to find and connect with your people, wherever you are."

In a nutshell, Google My Business is Google's attempt at making the management of local business data and business social pages more efficient. They've seemingly combined the best features of Google + and Google Places in an easy-to-use dashboard. And if you're already on Google Places and Google +, Google will automatically upgrade them to Google My Business. These changes mean that business owners waste less time, allowing them to spend more time actually running their business.

Check out Google's snappy video that breaks down how Google My Business can help your business and "unlock the full potential of Google".

Pros of Google My Business

  • Clean dashboard. One great feature about Google My Business is how simplified and visually appealing its dashboard is. It's quite beautiful and intuitive.
  • Everything is in one place. One dashboard holds local business data and social pages together. This is a great improvement from before when you had use one system to manage local business data and then use another system to manage the social page.
  • Quick access to key features. Now Reviews, Insights, Google Share +, and YouTube are just a click away without overcrowding your dashboard.

Cons of Google My Business

  • Access to less data. Unfortunately, the side effect of a cleaner dashboard means that you don't have easy access to a whole heap of data. Unlike its previous incarnations, Google My Business does not include keyword data, custom fields and tags, custom Q&A fields and Coupons and Offers.

Other Changes to Google My Business

  • You can write a longer introduction (for the verbose business owner).
  • You can upload more photos (which is great for engagement).
  • You can invite followers to hangouts.
  • Home services and non-local businesses benefit from the product. You don't need a Google Maps location to be listed on Google My Business.

Since it's still new, the downsides are just not as apparent yet. But overall, Google My Business is a big step in the right direction. The consolidated local business data and social pages will be a great benefit to businesses. And its simple and clean dashboard will mean that fewer business owners will be intimidated by Google.

What do you think of Google My Business? Yay or Nay? Let us know in the comments. 

The post Understanding Google My Business appeared first on LocalVox.

Tom Capuano was asking himself one question over and over in the late '90s. "How am I going to stay afloat?"  At the time, Tom owned his own small heating and air conditioning business.

"My wife Tracey and I were struggling. It was apparent to me that I needed to find an alternate way to use my experience and skills in heating and air conditioning.  The way we were going at the time, I knew I would have to file for bankruptcy," says Capuano.  After doing so they got a fresh new start in life by purchasing a Pillar To Post Home Inspection franchise on their last credit cards. 

Allowing Capuano to tell his own story, "It was an awful time but we also were excited to start fresh and do what we needed to do to get back on our feet.  We chose Pillar To Post because of so many things, but mainly because they were the number one home inspection franchise in North America and after meeting with the people and learning the program, we were sold.

The first year in business I performed 442 home inspections, answered and booked all inspections, did all the real estate office marketing and worked seven days per week. We kept our house which was near going into foreclosure. Our two young daughters never knew what was going on, other than Daddy changed jobs! They were involved with stuffing envelopes for marketing mailers, assembling the inspection binders, and being quiet when I was on a business call. I never missed a mortgage payment or an IRS payment.

The second year started out strong and mid-year I hired my first employee inspector, and doubled the number of inspections. I always knew that I wanted to own a home inspection business rather than work a job as a home inspector. So I began to hire good people who my good agents would like and trust just like me. As the years rolled by, I hired good people and continued to grow the business, always stressing the importance of helping our clients buy homes and to help real estate agents get inspections done with little to no hassle.

In 2007 Pillar To Post started a group called The Navigator Group, which is made up of franchisees who want to grow a larger business. We meet monthly by phone and face to face a couple of times per year. This has been a tremendous accelerant to my growth, and has impacted me as a leader in my business.

In 2005 I was recognized as the PTP franchisee of the year and in November 2013 we performed our 25,000th home inspection. Today my team is made of six full time inspectors, a marketing rep, a customer service rep and an accounting clerk. I have not performed a home inspection since November of 2011. My responsibilities are to assist my team, develop relationships with busy real estate agents and perform presentations.

We are the dominant home inspection company in our market because we are easy to do business with, have a caring, helpful inspection attitude with our clients, and help our agents get the transaction to close as efficiently as possible."

###

            Capuanos
 

Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with 450 franchisees, located in 48 states and eight Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years.

Pillar To Post has been ranked the No. 1 home inspection franchise in North America by Entrepreneur Magazine. For further information, please visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.

You've heard that content is king. In B2B public relations, producing consistent and compelling content is necessary to create a strong online presence.

How produce of an endless supply of blog topics or always have an attention-grabbing press release?

Sometimes finding content can seem like searching for a needle in, well, a stack of needles.

There's always something to write about, but what topics are right for your business? And what subjects are relevant now?

After you ask those questions, the content problem is easy.

PR Daily shares ways to create new content among sources you already have available. Here are a few of those tips to find content when it seems scarce:

  1. Repurpose. If you have multiple publication outlets, you can use those to recreate content. White papers can be reviewed and announced on your social media. A great blog topic can be turned into a press release. A nostalgic company advertisement can be the inspiration behind a blog post. Compiling blog comments from your audience can influence a news article. Sometimes all you need to do is use the same content, but tell a new story with it.
  1. Network. Your colleagues and clients are key resources for content inspiration. Meetings may not be your idea of fun, but conversing with other leaders or customers may be just the thing you need to discover new content ideas. People in your same industry can offer new insight and discuss current issues that you may not have yet faced. Idea-exchange among like-minded individuals can spark conversation and inspire content to boost your online engagement.
  1. Ask. Your audience is a readily available resource for content influence. There is nothing wrong with asking readers a question to inspire a blog post or taking a poll to understand their interests. After all, you want to publish content people want to read. Ask a question about your industry as a whole or ask your audience to share an experience they have had with your company. Asking a question not only helps to create content, but it also boosts audience engagement. Get creative and develop a hashtag for social media to increase participation.

Sitting for hours at the computer searching for topics stumps productivity. When content seems scarce, look to your available resources for inspiration.

If you need help producing content or developing a content marketing strategy, the Ripley PR team can sit down with you and show you how it will benefit your business. Developing a strong online presence generates leads and can take your business to the next level.

What's New in Direct Mail & Franchising?

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I have been in the direct mail industry for over 34 years.

During that time many of my clients have asked me what the most significant part of a successful marketing campaign is.

I always answer that the most important ingredient in any direct mail campaign is pre-qualifying your prospects and selecting the correct database for your franchise. There are many ways to prequalify your prospects either by: neighborhood, age, income, children in household, lifestyle, hobbies to name a few.

But your best source of knowledge is your current consumer database.

It is extremely important to keep your customer database up to date and keeping your data consistent. If your mail house is able, you need to have them pull a radius report around your business location and merge your current client list into the report.

The mail house should be able to provide you with a spreadsheet outlining for you exactly what neighborhoods your current clients are coming from. Remember your best new clients are usually a mirror image of your existing clients.

Once you select the neighborhoods you want to target have your mail house suppress your present consumers this way you are achieving a true new customer acquisition mailing and not just mailing to the same people who are already frequenting your franchise.

The old carpet bomb approach to direct mail is in the past.

People have become conditioned to just toss these types of direct mail vehicles into the trash and not even take a second look, that is why your response rates are dismal.

Direct Mail is still the best way for a franchise to reach your target audience and stay within your marketing budget. Take the time to find the right direct mail vehicle and mailing list to increase response rate by 2 to 3x your normal returns.

We also have fantastic direct mail vehicle that has an incredible 96% read rate out of mail box. It is called Impact Mailers and they are actually plastic post cards with snap out gift/loyalty cards which are getting tremendous response for many franchise verticals. Check them out. Hope this information helps you achieve your marketing goals.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

LinkedIn is the largest professional social networking site. It is a fantastic resource for networking, connecting with potential partners, investors and clients, and sharing your expertise.

There is no reason not to be on LinkedIn. It's safe and it's professional.

Here are nine steps to help you setup your LinkedIn profile successfully and use LinkedIn to strengthen your network.

Step 1: The Profile Box
Complete all this information.
1. Name
2. Professional Headline - Use Keywords! This is searchable.
3. Location
4. Professional Photo
5. Current and Past Positions - Use Keywords! Be Specific! This is searchable.
6. Education Information - Great way to connect!
7. Website Listings (Include Website Name) and Twitter Handle
8. Personalized LinkedIn URL
9. Professional Contact Information

Step 2: Summary
Be specific, be likable, use keywords and establish credibility. Introduce yourself in first person and set yourself apart from the competition. This should not be the same as your website bio.

Step 3: Skills
Remember - these are searchable keywords that will help you establish expertise and credibility.

Step 4: Complete the rest of your profile as fits your needs.
Honors, Interests, Awards, Photos, Media, etc.
You can have a lot of fun with the "extras" that really set your profile apart.

Step 5: Make Connections:
Email contacts, Colleagues, Classmates, Networking connections, etc.

Step 6: Join Groups and Follow Companies to Make More Connections

Step 7: Post Regular Updates
Post during the work day and share relevant information that will speak to your target market and connections in a unique way that sets you apart from others.

Step 8: Stay Up to Date
Follow channels that interest you on Pulse and stay in tune with what your network is interested in.

Step 9: Be Engaged 
Participate in groups, answer questions, respond to connections/messages

LinkedIn Wants You!

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The professional hub for online networking, has set its sights on a new audience: the B2B content marketer.

According to the leaked LinkedIn strategy document, the company is looking to build a "comprehensive B2B marketing platform." This new plan includes reforming the current networking space into a place where B2B public relations professionals and business owners can share targeted and dynamic content that generates sales leads.

Entrepreneur outlines the three things you should know, as a content marketer, about the new LinkedIn:

  • Taking the Guesswork Out: Content marketers will not only have access to the vast and comprehensive network of LinkedIn, but also the ability to target key audiences more accurately, and measure the impact of the marketing efforts.
  • Pressure is On: With this change comes the challenge of executing campaigns effectively. Marketers will need more content, and not just in volume. Due to the targeting features, the content will also need more specifics.
  • Reevaluate and Revise: It's time to take another look at your content marketing strategy and determine what it is missing in order to take full advantage of the new LinkedIn features. Rethink your key audiences. Is there an audience you're missing? What information would they want? Content should be created for a potential lead at every stage of the purchasing process.

Once you've revised your social strategy, developed more content, and determined your key audiences, it is time to implement.

Don't just stop with LinkedIn, continue to optimize other social media channels as well to get the most out of your lead generation strategies.

Don't have time to take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer for your franchise or B2B company? Ripley PR has the knowledge and skills to help you generate new sales leads through B2B social media and comprehensive public relations strategies.

Content Marketing is a practice designed to garner an ever-growing readership by publishing interesting, useful, relevant content on a regular basis.

The goal of content marketing is to drive these readers to fulfill the call to action you have set out for them.

Rather than being transparent in your sales approach, you are providing your audience with rewarding information in the hopes that they will return the favor by continuing to consume your content and purchase what you have to sell. Still not sure what this all means?

We've got some great local business content marketing examples below.

In the last few years, content marketing has changed the landscape for local businesses, allowing them to self-promote on the web in ways they never could have imagined before. Whether you love to spread the word on Facebook, can't update your website pages enough, or stay on Twitter 'round the clock, there is a content marketing outlet for every type of business. But popularity and limitless opportunities aside, why did we all decide that content deserves to wear the royal crown?

At LocalVox, we could go on ad nauseam about why your business needs content marketing to succeed, but for brevity's sake, we're going to distill its importance into three simple points.

1. Build Customer Relationships

When you post a relevant news story to your company's Twitter page, or share an interesting study on Facebook, you are engaging with your readers and establishing a relationship with them. By consistently posting a variety of trending, pertinent, entertaining content, you are creating a trusted reputation for your business in the virtual world. Your readers will continue turning to you for updates, which will lead to site traffic and conversion.

Studies have shown that website conversion rates are almost 6x higher for companies employing content marketing rather than those who don't (2.9% vs 0.5%). Like any relationship, it takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it.

2. Tell Your Brand Story

Since it's geographically and logistically impossible to go door-to-door describing your brand identity and business model to each and every one of the customers you hope to retain, the next best option is using the web to spread the word. With less leg work and a larger reach, it makes good, clean sense to take the time to craft your company's image and continue promoting it on a regular basis.

Essentially, you want to make readers' jobs as easy as possible. Take the guess work out of the equation and tell them upfront what you are all about. The faster and clearer the message delivery, the more likely those readers will stick around to see what else you have to say.

The Custom Content Council recently found that an impressive 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, and are more likely to make a purchase from them. If you want readers to complete the desired call to action (purchase an item, download a PDF, subscribe to a newsletter, call one of your sales people, etc) you'll have to connect with them on some level.

3. Become An Industry Expert

By publishing interesting, thought-provoking, relevant content on a regular basis, your readers will start to see you as a trusted industry expert. While that's hugely beneficial for the sake of retaining and building your customer base, there are also some less-obvious, behind-the-scenes advantages as well. In order to be an industry expert, you have to engage in discussions with other active members in your industry and learn from one another. In the process of building your reputation, you'll have the knowledge to back it up.

3 Content Marketing Examples

Foiled Cupcakes - Increased revenue projections by 600% with content marketing!

This Chicago bakery managed to get 93% of sales (exceeding their revenue ambitions by 600%) without a brick and mortar location. How? Content marketing. Owner and creator, Mari Luangrath started her online cupcake business five years ago, but in her first six weeks of business the website was malfunctioning and could not accept orders.

Instead of waiting out this website malfunction, she jumped on Twitter and started posting and chatting on a regular basis. Alongside her constant tweets, she launched an incredible cupcake blog. She went from no customers to thousands of followers during that time!

Birchbox - Content marketing drives significant paid subscriptions.

This beauty subscription service has paved the way for scores of other subscription services in different areas of business. With non-stop blog updates, tweets, Facebook posts and Youtube videos, it's no surprise that Birchbox has grown into such a successful brand.

Since all posts link back to the company's website, website traffic continues to multiply, leading to more subscribers and more sales.

The Waffle Shop - Unusual in-restaurant talk show drives customers.

This Pittsburgh breakfast destination stepped their content marketing efforts way up when they decided to think outside the box and create a live-stream talk show between themselves and their customers.

Broadcasted right in the middle of the restaurant, the show allowed for anyone to get on the mic and discuss anything that came to mind. By adding this unusual, live-theater aspect to their eatery, The Waffle Shop drew in customers who were not only interested in the food but the show as well.

What's It All Mean?

One of the best aspects of content marketing is the flexibility and wealth of options that it offers.  There isn't just one tried-and-true way to approach this method of creating and sharing media, but one common theme throughout is its clear-cut benefit to local businesses of all kinds.

Whether you want to get your feet wet posting an article or two, or plan on updating your company blog every single day, there's no right or wrong way to join the party and find out for yourself why content is the present-day leader of the pack in the internet marketing world. Need help getting started? 

Check out Localvox's beginner's guide and get all the help you need to take your business to the next level.

The post 3 Reasons Local Businesses Benefit From Content Marketing appeared first on LocalVox.

If you've watched the news or followed social media during a company crisis, you know how critical and memorable the moments that follow are to a brand. Retweeted and replayed quotes from media interviews become the public's association with your brand, and the last thing you want in a time of crisis is a misconception of your company. The words spoken during a crisis can often lead to a make-or-break moment for your employees, company, and brand.

In B2B Public Relations, it is necessary to not only build a crisis communication plan, but to decide the company spokesperson during times of crisis. So who exactly should you choose to interact with the media? PR Daily highlights three common arguments about who to consider when choosing your brand's spokesperson.

Argument 1: The CEO. It is a common myth that the default spokesperson in a crisis should always be a CEO. If the CEO is automatically the spokesperson, the public can often be led to believe the crisis at hand is larger than it really is. We aren't saying that the CEO should stay behind closed doors and avoid the crisis, but if the CEO is busy being the spokesperson for the company, they do not have time to manage or focus on business operations.

Argument 2: The PR specialist. The public relations specialist for your company is a logical choice for a spokesperson. Although the PR specialist will be leading the crisis management team, they do not have to be the only voice to the public. They will have the expertise to communicate with media, but they may not have it in regards to the crisis subject matter.

Argument 3: A variety of people. It is a safe prediction that multiple people will be speaking with media during a time of crisis. A great plan for preparedness would be to ensure that numerous people are properly trained to speak to media during this delicate time. A knowledgeable subject matter expert should always be available to speak with media about the details of the crisis. For example, if the company is accused of discrimination during the hiring process, a human resources specialist should be trained to take the lead.

Your spokesperson, or persons, should be knowledgeable, empathetic, and able to handle themselves professionally in a time of crisis. Selecting a spokesperson in advance will help you be prepared to stand firm when a crisis hits. If your crisis communication plan needs work, or you need to know how to interact with media, the experts at Ripley PR can implement media training for employees so that your business can handle a company crisis effectively and professionally.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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