April 2015 Archives

What to Do - Extend Your PR Coverage to More than one Day.

Social networking and social news websites have done for media coverage what fitness and nutrition have done for the human race - dramatically extended their longevity.

When the media devotes positive coverage to a company or individual, traditionally the value would exist the day of the coverage, but not much beyond.

When something good happens, you have to make it last. With all the opportunities to maximize media placements online, businesses should take advantage of all it and milk every last bit of mileage from their well-deserved PR attention.

How to Extend Your PR Coverage.

We make it a habit at our agency to remind clients every time they receive a placement or mention any media to do the following six simple things:

    • Blog about it (and install blogging software if you don't have it.)

    • Post it on the "News" section of their website (We go under the assumption all of our clients have one of these!)

    • Send an email with links to the coverage to customers, co-workers, friends, pretty much anyone you know. (Some of our clients create an "In the News" newsletter where they gather our placements and send it monthly as one-page newsletter to prospects.)

    • Share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and on social news websites like Digg or Reddit (when posting it to these sites, send a link to your submission to colleagues and ask them to "Digg" or vote for your placement so it raises in popularity on the page. Also track your placement's progress. Check back in a few days to see how many people have viewed or voted.)

    • Hang it. Create an 8 x 11 PDF for hanging it in visible areas of their business.

  • Include a link to the media mention in their email signature (only for the first three to five days post-coverage)

Why You Need to Extend Your PR Coverage.

Once read, watched or heard - an article, TV or radio segment was once quickly gone and forgotten, as fast as the next day's news came out. The only way to extend its short life was to perhaps frame it in glass and hang it a waiting area, where it might be occasionally skimmed by customers or passersby. Let's face it, given all the hard work it takes to score positive media attention, letting the end result slip away so quickly is nothing short of a darn shame.

But, now, with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, and social news websites such as Reddit or Digg, what used to be a one-day or otherwise short-lived "PR win" has now become something that businesses and individuals can benefit from for weeks, months and even years. By sharing media coverage on these networks and sites, businesses and others can not only extend the life of their coverage, but they can quadruple or more the number of eyes that eventual see it.

Sharing an article, TV segment, radio broadcast or blog mention online can be as simple as shortening the link with a url shrinker (i.e., TinyURL) and posting the link to your company's social media sites. Just be mindful of overkill. I've seen companies retweet or post the same media mention as much every five minutes. That's called overly promotional ... a major turnoff to the very group you are trying to impress.

Another overly simple way to extend viewers and life of media mentions is to email a link to employees, friends, colleagues and even customers, who then may very well pass along the coverage to their stream of followers.

Sharing media articles on social news web sites can be the most effective way to increase the power and audience of your positive media coverage. In fact, Quantcasst estimates Digg's monthly U.S. unique visits at 4.3 million.

Social news websites feature user-posted stories, typically ranked based on popularity. Examples include Slashdot (focusing on science and technology news), Fark, Digg, Reddit, Delicious and Newsvine. Not only do can users on the site comment on the posts, but their comments may also be ranked. What's more, many of these sites are also used to link many types of information, such as news and discussion, humor and support.

One of the most important and strategic elements that can help maximize media relationships and the impact of news announcements is having a corporate online newsroom. Having a page on a company's website that's dedicated to press releases and news gives media a kind of one-stop-shop to observe what's been going on within a company, recent updates and ongoing traction in the industry.

Posting media coverage on your website is like a "duh," but worth noting and also recommending that every company have a news page on their website that should always stay current. Nothing irks a PR person more than to go on their clients' sites and see the last story posted was over six months ago. Obviously, linking back to an article is a great way to build SEO.

Remember, when something good happens, you have to make it last. With all the opportunities to maximize media placements online, businesses should take advantage of all it and milk every last bit of mileage from their well-deserved PR attention. And cultivate these 6 habits. Ask your current PR provider to assist you, if you need help with these basic steps.

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This has been a guest post by Debra Vilchis.

She is an experienced, results-driven PR and media relations professional. Her previous experience as a newspaper and national wire service journalist gives her unique insight into what makes reporters and editors tick, as well as what doesn't. Her focus is driving the right kind of message to the right audience - at the right time - for each of Fishman's franchise clients, and optimizing those results through social media channels.

On Lawyerist.com, a blog for lawyers. Sam Glover writes

"Somewhere your there a social media consultant must be blogging about how important it is to have a Facebook page for your law firm, because 'Follow my firm's Facebook page!' updates seem to pop up in my feed every day or two.

That consultant is a moron."

Perhaps Sam was talking about me, because I think that having a Facebook page is an excellent idea for practically any small business who focuses on a local market.

I also think law firms should have Facebook pages, despite the concern that many attorneys have over the risk of stepping outside ethical guidelines when engaging communities through social media.

Sam goes on to describe his own experience with creating a Facebook page. He had a couple dozen likes from friends and a few strangers, and he really didn't do much with it. He said that he tried to keep it active for a while, but nobody cared, so he deleted it. Poor Sam. He doesn't get Facebook.

Most law firms do not get Facebook, and it's a rather curious puzzle to me why these super-smart and savvy expert people-readers would completely miss the mark on social marketing. I suspect it is because they are listening to the wrong advice.

LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell offers social media advice to law firms using examples that are reminiscent of what most other businesses were doing five years ago, using the platform as a soapbox instead of an opportunity for creating one-to-one conversations. But their advice is still more progressive than what most firms are doing.

By surveying more than 1,300 law firm Facebook pages, I determined that more than 80% were unsuccessful in their social media effort. Most of the unsuccessful pages have an automated feed from their blog to their Facebook page, which doesn't even register on the "fun and social" scale.

Really, who, besides other lawyers, subscribes to law site blogs? The only reason most law sites have blogs is to improve their search rankings. This is not exactly cocktail conversation.

Sam, I want you to repeat after me. "It's all about connecting with my community".

Did you get that? If you want to be successful on Facebook, you have to stop thinking about your own page and start thinking about how you can connect with people, promote events, promote your community, and create opportunities for engaging conversations. You have to be social.

It really works. Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff has over 2,000 fans on their Facebook page. They promote a variety of local causes like Junior Achievement and local food banks. They rally their fans to drum up more support, and gain more fans in the process. This is just one example of dozens I came across in my research.

Facebook provides a great opportunity for law firms to connect with their community and create valuable top-of-mind awareness. Done right, it's highly effective. But it takes effort to make social media work for you.

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Improve Your Tradeshow Marketing

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Have you ever looked back at your old yearbook from high school? In mine, someone named Dave wrote, "Remember that night at the cabin, and always stay squishy, dude!" And some girl added, "Stay a sweetie! Always! And keep your feet warm!" Reading those comments, I wonder what about me was squishy in high school. That was when I was in good shape! And why were my feet cold?

Those indecipherable yearbook quotes are a lot like the leads I took home one year from the Institute of Food Technologists show. In both cases I was reading notes written by people who were trying to tell me something, but the messages on the paper left me scratching my head.

At IFT, I conducted a little experiment on behalf of my employer at the time, Kerry Group Inc. To see how well the company followed up on what its staffers promised in the booth, I hired a couple of college kids to survey attendees. Every time one of the students saw a booth staffer have a conversation with an attendee, the student approached the visitor with an exit survey to determine what he or she expected from my company after the show.

Based on the surveys, 750 attendees left our exhibit expecting follow-up communication. But when we got home and counted our leads, only 150 forms noted any need to follow up. Why?

After some more analysis, I determined that much of the discrepancy was attributed to bad lead taking.

No one had determined what information made a lead form actionable.

Furthermore, the staff wasn't trained on how to get good info from attendees and effectively record it for post-show follow-up. Long conversations with attendees typically produced little more than lead forms with some contact info and a note saying, "So and so stopped by to say hi."

No request for follow-up was noted, but those attendees left the show expecting phone calls.

To combat this problem, I designed a better lead form­, one that matched the needs of my sales team, and trained our booth staff on how to complete it. As a result, we were able to haul in more actionable leads the following year. Even better, our sales staff didn't gripe about getting a pile of useless forms, and all attendees who expected phone calls and follow-up got exactly what they requested.

If you are having problems with leads that don't provide actionable information, follow these three steps to turn those incoherent slips of paper into valuable sales tools.

1. Get Buy-in:

First, determine who will be responsible for following up on the leads you collect at the trade show. Usually, this will be your company's sales team. So sit down with them and determine what kind of info your salespeople expect to glean from your lead forms. What information does each salesperson need in order to quickly decipher the data, categorize the lead as hot or cold, and follow up accordingly?

You will likely find that actionable information includes which products or services the prospect showed interest in, whether that prospect plans to make a purchase within a particular time frame, the volume of product he or she needs, and what kind of budget his or her company has to spend. By knowing what information your sales team needs to follow up with a lead, you'll have a clear idea of how the lead form should be designed and what information your booth staff needs to note on the form.

2. Design The Form:

Depending on who is responsible for lead follow-up, which market segment you're targeting, and what information your sales team requires from the attendees to take post-show action, your lead form might change from show to show. Just make sure this form contains the questions and answers that will make your internal stakeholders happy. That said, there are three basic categories of information every good lead should have.

3. The Facts:

At the very least, you want to get a person's name and his or her contact information such as a phone number, e-mail address, and a company name and job title. An even better lead might contain a second point of contact with the company who is also responsible for specifying, recommending, or influencing purchasing decisions.

While much of this data probably comes from scanning an attendee's badge, don't trust that the scanner gave you everything you need. Verify the information, as people sometimes change jobs, move to new branch offices, or get promotions between when they registered and when the show began. If need be, carefully hand write this info or get a current business card and staple it to the form.

4. The Content:

This is where to acquire the information requested by your internal stakeholders in step one. Basically, whatever information those stakeholders expect from an actionable lead is what you need to gather here. The key is to make sure you can collect this data quickly and efficiently. A good form can be filled out during or immediately following a basic conversation between your staffers and your booth visitors. For example, the form might include a list of products or services on display in the booth, so staffers can easily note the various makes and models attendees express interest in during the conversation.

5. The Action:

The last section of the form needs to include options on if, how, and when the attendee wants to be contacted after the show. Does the attendee want product-specific info e-mailed within a week? Is the attendee expecting a phone call next month? If follow-up is not noted on the form, it's not likely to happen -- and certainly not in the manner the attendee would prefer. So condition your staffers to complete this extremely important part of the lead form, or attendees are likely to leave with follow-up expectations that won't be met.

6. Train Your Team:

Once your form is designed, work with your staffers to make sure they know what information an actionable lead form must contain. Show them examples of bad lead forms from the past, and conduct role-playing games to get them familiar with the kinds of questions they will need to ask in order to adequately complete the forms.

During the show, hold regular end-of-day meetings to review lead forms and note any consistent errors or omissions to help your team course correct as quickly as possible.

As it turns out, these steps helped solve my company's mystery of how 750 attendees who expected post-show follow-up translated into only 150 actionable requests. Now, if I could just figure out what happened at the cabin in high school.

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Using QR Codes for the Local Franchise Business

Two years ago, there was lot of buzz about Taco Bell's QR Code promotion with MTV. This is often pointed out as a great example of a fast food or franchise business using QR Codes but my impression is that most franchise owners are local business people and the Taco Bell-MTV promotion is a better example of two national brands teaming up on a national campaign.

I thought that their use of QR Codes was inspired and this campaign will do a lot to help make the general public familiar with QR Codes but it doesn't do much to show franchise owners what they can do on the local level. If at this point you are not familiar with QR Codes please read some of my blogs on QR Codes.

Even though many franchise owners may own more than one franchise location in reality they are local business people who depend upon local customers and repeat customers for their business. There may be many marketing mistakes franchise owners make because they do not think of themselves as local business owners. QR Codes is a tool to help correct that. In fact almost anything a local business can do with a QR Code a franchise business can do

In spite of examples of large companies such as Taco Bell using QR Codes they really are custom made for small businesses. The biggest advantage is that they are very inexpensive to generate. There are a number of free and low cost QR Code Generators for marketing as well as platforms where you can build a QR Code campaign and a mobile website such as Linkblots.com. Of course there are plenty of agencies, such as Image Media Partners, that offer low cost solutions for QR Code campaigns.

3 Basic Uses for QR Codes

1. Bridge to the online world: Since a QR Code can be printed on anything that can be printed on it is the perfect tool to bring your customer from the physical world to the online world. If your business already has any type of online presence, a website that you control, a Facebook page or even a Google Places or Yelp listing you can use a QR Code to connect to it. This may be something as simple as scanning the code to "Like" your Facebook page or connecting to a more robust mobile micro-website.

2. Promotions: Unlike printed coupons QR Codes, if used properly, don't expire because the code brings the user to a mobile website that can be updated with new information. For example if Monday's coupon is a free coke and Tuesday's coupon is an early bird special you can update the coupon and continue to use the same QR Code. La Croissanterie, a French fast-food outlet, is using QR Codes as part of their loyalty program. A Mexican restaurant chain owner in Michigan used QR Codes to promote his third outlet opening in Ann Arbor. He included the QR Codes in ads on posters and newspapers around the University of Michigan and got about four thousand scans.

3. Information: QR Codes would be too limiting if the only thing they did was make it easier to "Like" your Facebook page or pass as a fancy high-tech coupon. Even though in a recent study by MGH Modern Marketing 87% of the respondents who were interested in QR Codes said they would scan a code to get a coupon, 63% said they would scan the code to get more information, 53% said they would sign up to a mailing list to receive more information and 60% said they would scan the code to make a purchase. People are looking for information as well as deals. One cool thing Taco Bell is doing with their QR Codes is linking to a Taco Bell mobile site that not only has specials but a store locator, menus and nutritional and allergy information. What information would be helpful to your customers? Do you have a mailing list? Use the QR Code to sign them up.

Basic QR Code Guidelines

There are only a few rules, or rather, best practices you should pay attention to.

  1. Specific Destination: Any time you have a link it should be to a specific page for a specific action. Don't send people to Facebook send them to your Facebook page. Don't send people to your home page send them to a specific landing page optimized for a mobile phone.
  2. Optimize for Mobile: 99% of all users will scan your QR Code with a mobile phone (OK I made up that number but who carries their desktop to a restaurant?) Your destination page needs to be set up for mobile phones. Facebook already is but if you send them someplace else make sure they can read your page on a smart phone.
  3. Keep the URL Short: The longer the URL the more complex the code will become. Keep things simple and use a URL shortener. If you make a unique code on a site like bit.ly.com you can keep track of the traffic. An added plus for bit.ly is that when you ad .qr to the end of any bit.ly URL it will generate a QR Code.

More QR Code Ideas

If you have not already come up with a list of uses for QR Codes here are a few suggests.

Where to send people who scan your QR Code:

· Mobile website

· Google Places or Yelp listing

· Menu

· Store Locator

· Facebook

· Coupon

· Sign up mail list

· Helpful information:

o Nutritional info

o Tax Tips

o Corporate site

o vacation destinations

· Slide show of home, cars, pizzas, shoes or whatever you are selling

· Video of your business or product

· Micro-payments

· E-commerce site

· Your phone number

· Contact information

· Information about product

· Charity you support

Where to print QR Codes:

· Business card

· Poster

· Front door (link to Foursqure)

· Google Places

· Menu

· Billboard

· Real Estate signs

· Newspaper or Magazine Ad

· T-shirt

· Little League Uniform

· Coupons

· On food

· Product packaging and labels

· Laptop stickers

· Table Tents

· Tattoos

· Catalogs

· Flyers

· Pizza boxes

Just about any place where you connect to your customers and would like to bring them into the online world is a good place to put a QR Code and any place on line that you can offer value to your customer is a great place to link a QR Code. The most effective way to scan a QR Code is with a smartphone. Many detractors will point out that currently only 35% of North Americans have a smartphone but market penetration will surpass 50% by the end of the year and it is expected to grow. My advice is to get a bit ahead of the curve and be ready. QR codes can easily fit into most marketing plans and it will pay dividends. A quick side note to local printing franchise owners, if your customers are not already asking you to print QR Codes they soon will be as the owners of Sir Speedy found out.

For more information about QR Codes and how to use them you can download this QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet or visit the QR Code Resourcepage on our website. I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences or questions concerning QR Codes in the comments section.

Timothy Lorang is the founder and Executive Partner for Image Media Partners, an online and social media marketing and consulting agency based in Seattle, Washington. Partner Views Blog covers many of the aspects of online, social media and QR Code marketing. Image Media Partners offers low cost solutions for those needing assistance for their QR Code Campaigns and a free QR Code Check List and Fact Sheet download.

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Most companies know that product reviews can make or break a sale, and that customers have come to rely on word of mouth reviews, feedback, and opinions when making purchasing decisions.

Amazon has taken this a step further and turned to their customers to provide that much needed information that can push customers to making a purchase.

Their "ask a question" feature allows customers browsing items to ask a question that will be answered by people who have purchased the item. When looking at products on their site, you'll see a "ask a question" or "XX number of questions answered" for each product:

amazon-question.png

Clicking on the link allows customers to ask a more detailed, "nuts and bolts" type question that might be the one factor in deciding to purchase or not, and customers who have bought the item can respond.

In the example of above, questions ranged from "Does it play DVD's that have been burned?" to "Does this DVD player remember where you left off"" to the more technical, "I have an old Panasonic TV. Will this work with it?"

Amazon realizes the importance of product information and providing enough information, in as many ways possible, to educate and encourage sales.

Of course, customer buy in to participate by answering questions is an important component - if customers don't reply, potential buyers may not get the information they need. Similarly, they could get the perception, based on the lack of activity in this area, that the product is not popular or one that many people purchase.

One way Amazon tries to prevent this is by routing these questions, as they come in, to customers who have purchased the item. Often times customers will be happy to share their feedback. As an added benefit - those customers may become more loyal to Amazon, as they company turns to them for insight and feedback on a personal level.

While not a new feature, it is one that is picking up steam, and is a great example of finding new ways to encourage sales and engage customers, as well as potential customers.

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Sometimes the truth is that franchisors do not actually know what their online presence looks like.

They may or may not be aware of what franchisees are doing online. They may or may not have a good picture of the brand messaging that is being communicated to the audience.

This brief online assessment tool provides franchisors just a bit of a nudge so they can take a closer look at what's happening online within their organization.

  1. Is your franchise website ranking #1 on Google?

  2. Is your website ranking on Page 1 of Google in all markets where you have franchise locations?

  3. Are you aware of what your franchisees are posting online?

  4. Do your franchisees regularly engage online in a way that is compliant?

  5. Do you have an Internet Usage Policy in place that all franchisees and staff adhere to?

  6. Is your social media communication consistent across all channels?

  7. Do you have a plan that covers how franchisees should respond to negative posts online?

  8. Do you have a system for monitoring franchise-wide social media engagement?

  9. Do you have a system for delivering consistent, timely and well-crafted customer care through online platforms?

  10. Are you actively engaging in all your local markets with consistent social communication?

If you answered all 10 questions as YES, Congratulations!

Your Franchise's online presence is in great shape!

If you answered YES 8-9 times, your franchise has a fairly good standing online.

Consider hiring a consultant to do an analysis of your online strategy and to help you fill in any gaps you may be missing.

If you answered YES 7 or fewer times, you need professional help.

Even though you may be doing many things well, having 30% of your online presence missing the mark is a serious issue and could be causing your brand significant damage online.

Consult with a professional team that has expertise in online communication solutions, and make that call right away!

I was talking to a friend of mine who's in sales, and he was frustrated.

He shared with me that he continues to see the same pattern. He talks to a client, and he leaves them interested, but in the next meeting they tell him that they are no longer interested or worse than that, they do not even keep that scheduled meeting.

He is not in a one-step type sale. So, it is not that he cannot close. In fact, he is closing for the next appointment.

I asked him what's happening between those meetings.

He responded with "Tim, they perform their due diligence and determine what we are not."

What piece is missing?

In his case, the organization is not a strong national brand and they have little market presence in the area he is working in.

I was able to draw on some personal experience from just about twenty years ago. I was with an organization that was not a household name. In fact, they had international presence, but the network for the most part was weak.

The company wanted to change its image and decided to target much larger clients going forward. This would be like raising the Titanic. It may have seemed like a daunting task, but I began to re-write the companies record books.

My book of business was five years ahead of projections. I simply identified people who did not need the household brand name awareness but had needs that matched up with our strengths.

One of those strengths was our royalty structure. (Later,the company was sold and they eliminated that competitive advantage, as well as many of the proprietary tools.) I simply did not sell around our weakness, but stated what we were and what we were not. This worked.

My clients were among the top five percent quartile of our membership upon affiliation.

So, my advice was simple. I suggested after the needs analysis, share what you are not, which may or may not be obvious.

Rather than the client discovering this, be honest and upfront. Focus them on the needs that they have agreed on and that you have solutions for those challenges.

If you truly cannot match your value proposition to their needs, you must move on.

Even if you can sell around it, they will probably end up miserable. Soon, you will be too. There is nothing worse than an unhappy customer. They will not say, "It is not working for me." They will say "It just does not work."

Over 50 years ago a movie was released called Miracle on 34 street, by now you probably have seen it a hundred times. The main plot in the story surrounds the concept of Santa Claus and if he does exist.

Once agreed that he did exist,the question became was the man on trial the one and only Santa Claus?

In the early part of the movie you may recall that Macy's sent customers to Gimbels,which was all started by the Santa in question. As the publicity mounted, both stores ultimately embraced the concept. Soon, competition broke out to put the customer needs first.

While you can say 'well that may be good in theory or only the movies," we all appreciate an honest salesperson sending us someplace else to find what we really need.

Progressive Insurance even made a marketing campaign out sharing other's rates.

At the root of consultative selling isn't that at the very core?

I stopped asking people during an interview, "What is your approach to selling?" I always received the same answer and that was consultative selling.

A consultant does not keep asking questions until they find an opening. They identify an agreed upon problem and then help find a solution.

Sometimes, we do not have a fit.

Or we may have some of what they need, but it still does not match the client's real challenge. It is like having the right size shoe for the customer, but in the wrong color. They have to choose the shoe or the exact match. In some cases, they may be willing to adapt or make a change to make that product work.

So my advice is to find the right fit. There is no one size fits all. Do not be afraid of saying "That is not us.", and turn down the sale.

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No matter what products/services your business offers, having an online marketing strategy to engage your target audience is essential to your success.

While many franchises still use outdoor billboards, print and TV ads for national branding purposes, there has been a steady shift towards digital advertising because it is more cost-effective, allows for precise audience targeting and provides trackable analytics.

It might be easy to stick with what has worked in the past, but your franchise's marketing plan should always include a mix of digital marketing activities -- even if you just begin by dipping your toes into the water -- in order to reach new audiences and stay competitive in the marketplace.

A good starting point is to create a mobile-friendly website and make sure your directory listings are optimized so that new and existing customers can find you easily. Once you have established your online presence (your website) and ensured the listings for your locations are accurate (directory listings), you can begin building on your foundation with online marketing strategies (such as SEO, social media, email, etc.) and digital advertising.


Digital advertising + organic marketing = results

If you're like many other marketers, your opinions of digital advertising and organic marketing will range from positive to negative and most-likely conflict: if you love digital advertising, you think organic marketing doesn't get results quick enough (and vice versa).

You'll be happy to learn that you no longer need to play favorites; in fact, digital advertising and organic marketing will get your franchise the best results if you combine the two. Just as basketball was originally created to help keep baseball players in shape during the cold winter months, digital advertising will only enhance your ongoing organic marketing efforts and boost your franchise's online presence.

organic = advertising

New capabilities: target, track, convert and analyze

Digital advertising provides you with some unique benefits that other methods do not:

  • The ability to target the audience(s) you want to see your messaging
  • Track and retarget ads to people who have visited your website
  • It is in the best-interest of digital advertising publishers to convert and get results from your ads so they can get paid (pay-per-click)
  • Digital advertising provides you with detailed results that you cananalyze

TARGET

One of the biggest benefits of digital advertising is being able to strategically target consumers (contextual, behavioral, audience, demographic, geographic region, keyword, time or emotional). The rise ofprogrammatic has created a science out of digital advertising; advertisers are able to determine who sees their ad and the creative served, as well as the maximum price they are willing to pay in order to reach that user (bidding).

Many franchises set their digital advertising parameters to target users in a geographic location around a business location. Now, instead of hoping they reach the right people (billboards, outdoor, TV, print) they now know exactly who they are reaching, what creative they saw, how they engaged with the ad and what actions were taken.

However, you don't have to directly target around your locations, you can also focus on an entire area. As you can see in the example below, a Starbucks location targets both their direct location and the entire area surrounding them. Starbucks strategy will ensure they reach their direct consumers, but also potential ones in the surrounding area.

geo-target advertising

As with any new franchise marketing strategy, you don't want to dive in and never get out of the water -- you should take it one lap at a time. Try testing what regions and messages work best for your franchise, so you can refine and retest (it's a never-ending cycle!).


TRACK + RETARGET

I know that I am not the only one who has visited a website and wanted to learn more, but was interrupted and had to move on to something else quickly. Lucky for me, digital advertisers invented retargeting ads that will follow me around the web and remind me of that website I meant to spend more time on.

Retargeting ads allow potential customers the ability to check out your website and then take some time to consider their options, while your business can still be at the forefront of their mind.

For example (below), if I visit Starbucks website to find out about the different types of Tevana teas offered, but don't purchase anything, Starbucks tea ads will follow me around as I visit other websites -- such as The Huffington Post (below) -- to remind me about how delicious their chai tea latte looks.

Starbucks Chai Tea Latte

Retargeted ad for starbucks


CONVERT

There are a variety of ways your franchise can embrace digital advertising and build your brand online -- and all come with a different price tag, depending on how in-demand the audience you want to reach is. For example, purchasing the in-demand ad word "car insurance" is much more expensive than buying "franchise digital marketing."

While some keywords and campaigns may be out of your price range, digital advertising as a whole is extremely cost-effective because you are only paying for the users that act on your ad (PPC). In addition, you don't have to worry about any ancillary costs associated with the campaign (i.e.: printer color proofs, tests, etc.) because you set your cost limits up front. This gives your franchise the ability to dip your toes in the water and find out what works best for your business before you dive in for a whole work out.


ANALYZE

When you launch your franchise's digital advertising campaign, you should plan (and expect) to receive a detailed analysis of your results when it is over.

Depending on the type of campaign you run, you might receive results from display ad auditors (such as comScore or DoubleClick), your retargeting/PPC ad server or ad word network (such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

In order to get the most out of these valuable insights, you need to make sure your digital advertising campaign is set up correctly (such as having tracking codes, being mobile-optimized, etc.).

Whether you embrace social media, PPC, retargeting or ad words (to name a few) for your franchise's digital advertising campaign, you should never feel pressured to spend a large amount of money to get started. Any digital advertising partner worth their weight will be confident in their ability to get you the results you want -- so you can increase your spend the next time round.


Conclusion

As your franchise grows and expands, you have to find new ways to reach new customers -- and digital advertising is a solid solution that will keep your brand competitive in a crowded marketplace. Moreover, your franchise's growth from direct advertising and organic search will never plateau if you correctly utilize the many different strategies and tools available to you.

If you are curious about how to blend your digital advertising strategy into your overall marketing strategy, check out our e-book Who Owns Local Marketing? You'll also learn how multi-location businesses and franchises close the gap between corporate (franchisor) and individual franchisee locations with local online marketing.

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

Considering that "Content is King" on the web, it's important to gauge how wide of a net is being cast through your Content Marketing efforts. Is the content you are distributing of interest to the rest of the world? Does it have viral possibilities?

Perhaps your strategy is to circulate positive information about your company as a digital public relations tool. Or maybe you're working to promote specific products and services. Whatever your objective, the starting point is the same: research. Your research will help ensure your content is found under the right circumstances, as well as angled toward the areas in which people are most interested.

Your Products and Services Strategy

When beginning the keyword selection process for a web site, many of our clients initially gravitate to words which they personally associate with their business. Their first response tends to be, "we are currently ranked number one for this particular term or terms." As part of our early research, SmartFinds Internet Marketing identifies how many people are actually searching the term(s) - and more often than not, we find there are no searches - or not a very significant number of searches.

Of course, the more meaningful data comes from our identifying which types of term(s) are actually being searched relative to a client's products or services. The old days of guessing which keyword term(s) will bring results are gone. All three major search engines and many other resources can help you zero in on viable keyword choices. Terminologies, monthly search volumes and number of competing web pages are all data points that are available.

Use this research when developing your content for articles and news releases - as well as postings for social media marketing. The research is also valuable in determining how to strategically tag and describe your videos and photos. Furthermore, your analysis will assist you with terminologies for your web site and in developing landing pages.

One interesting situation which raises issues is when the world is seeking your business products and services in one way, yet you want to be known in another way. The business focus will need to lean towards bringing the traffic to your web site; and then, educate the visitors towards your focus. One good example of this is "dental benefits" versus "dental insurance." Most dental coverage is legally known as "dental benefits," but the consumer market seeks this information out as "dental insurance."

Using Content Marketing for Business Digital Public Relations

Business digital public relations are all about your company name and your company's domain name. There is less research required in this process since both items are easily located. The process begins by going to the major search engines and typing your company name in quotes to see what the results display.

The questions to ask and answer about these results are:

  • Are they positive or negative about your company?
  • How much of this information is on 3rd party web sites?
  • Ideally we are not looking for those listings on your own web site, but on others. Prospects are typically more interested in what is on third party web sites than what is on your own web site. (Similar to how a magazine article about your business might be of more influence than your company brochure.)
  • Does the information support your sales team when they drop off a proposal with a prospect?

You may find that there are other companies that have similar names; or there is other information unrelated to your business creating content noise that does not support your business. Inconsistent information about your business or neutral responses will not support your sales team.

Take the next step in this exercise by entering a search of your domain name in quotes. We find that companies may have more information on the web about their company name and significantly less with their domain name link. It is imperative that the two reach similar volume over time in order to build the story around your business.

The idea now is to develop content around articles, news releases, videos, photos, social media communities that is all about your business name and with your domain name as the link.

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

At the Face 2 Face conference put on by Progress Media in 2013, we were challenged to consider our stories, refine them and learn to share them as part of our business growth strategy.

Story is a huge component of what my team and I do every day, however the importance of my own story and how that shapes my company's growth has never resonated with me quite so clearly.

My story begins in Texas, where I was raised. In the 5 years after I graduated with a BS in Education, I worked as a teacher and on the side honed my song writing skills, performing and recording two CD's as the lead singer in a local band. I also managed to write a non-fiction book called Lord, Help Me...I'm Single, which was published in 2006, about life as a single girl after university.

Stories. They were intertwined in everything I did...in my teaching, my writing, my songs. And I wanted more.

So I left Texas on an adventure. I moved to St. John's, Newfoundland to study folklore, which essentially is the study of how cultures communicate their belief systems and tell their stories through varied mediums. For my thesis I traveled to Louisiana and studied the local lore surrounding a humanoid primate (aka "bigfoot" type creature) known as the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

I collected stories the natives told, and I witnessed how they wove those stories in a variety of ways to sell them, to sell the belief to the public, and to make money. To this day I have the t-shirt, books, DVD's and plaster cast footprint as keepsakes of my experiences...in addition to my thesis, of course.

At the time I didn't realize that experience would shape my future in the marketing industry, however it has done just that.

After moving with my husband (a Canadian who I met when we played in a band together in St. John's) to Winnipeg and then to Oxford, Mississippi, we made our way back up to Atlantic Canada and settled in Halifax.

With a young daughter and no work visa, I started learning ways to use the Internet to bring in an income from home. And so I entered the field of Internet marketing, and it fit like a glove. I didn't realize why until much later, but I now know that it's my passion for telling stories that made it click.

When I opened Wired Flare in 2011, I had 4 years of experience in marketing but a lifetime of experience in telling stories. And at Wired Flare, that's exactly what we do.

We have the privilege and honour each day of telling our clients' stories. They entrust us with this great task, and to do it well we make our clients' stories our own. Their stories become ours, and we use our voice to tell them out loud, to put them to work for our clients...to communicate their stories and their beliefs in such a way that their audiences become part of the stories we're telling.

What we do is about much more than helping our clients make money...it's about getting to the core of why our clients do what they do and helping them achieve their end goals...which have a far greater impact than money.

Those end goals, the visions, the ultimate impact on the world that our collective stories make...that becomes legend, and legend lives on forever.

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

This short video demonstrates to franchisors how we were able to create such powerful, authentic videos from people who are usually not that good on camera.

Video is a much better way of capturing a franchisor's enthusiasm and passion for their system than just words.

That's it for now. Let us know how we can help you or your clients with our Social Video Marketing by connecting with me on LinkedIn.

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

Perusing through some articles, in groups I belong to on LinkedIn, I was appalled by the number of spelling errors.

For example:

-Wear vs. Where
-There vs. Their

Yes, these are homonyms that spellcheck would not catch, but shouldn't you?

Other common typos:

-To vs. Too
-Than vs. Then
-Lose vs. Loose
-Your vs. You're
-It's vs. Its

Of course the list could go on. When did it become acceptable to publish content with these types of errors?

Do people and organizations take online publications as seriously as they do offline publications? Seemingly not.

I would argue, however, that your online presence is just as crucial and sometimes more crucial than your offline one. Why? Now, more than ever before, people are finding companies online first, before anywhere else.

If the first impression a potential client has of your business is less than professional, what does that say about your organization as a whole?

Take the time to proofread, or make sure someone on your staff is doing it regularly and doing it well. Keep in mind that spellcheck only catches certain errors, so there's still some human proofreading element required.

This rule applies to content that goes on your website, your blog, and your social media posts - in addition, of course, to the traditionally published content you distribute.

Franchisors, keep in mind that everything your franchisees publish both online and offline is a reflection of the brand as a whole. Make sure your franchisees understand the importance of proofreading.

It may mean that in order to maintain that level of professionalism in your online communications, more content has to be generated from a central source.

The bottom line is...it's absolutely imperative that you establish a company policy and practices to guarantee a high quality of content in both online and offline publications.

This will help ensure that the first impression you make is a professional one, regardless of where it happens.

(For those of you shouting to yourselves, "Here she is talking about writing properly and proofreading, and she used a sentence fragment in this article," this comment is for you:

Yes, I used a sentence fragment in the article, and I used it intentionally to make a point. It's a writer's stylistic freedom to know the rules and break them when it fits. The key, however, is to knowing them well and breaking them only when it's with great intention.)

1 Basic Tip: Read your copy out loud and slowly to another person. You will catch your errors and improve the sound of your written word.

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]

Direct Mail Advertising: Thinking Outside the (Mail)Box

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In a world where smartphones and tablets have become mission critical devices in the daily lives of consumers, it has become more popular than ever among marketers to advertise in the digital space, be it email, web, mobile, etc.

As the media spend continues to increase in this category, money continues to be shifted away from print as advertisers declare "print is dead." While print-based mass media is most assuredly on the decline in both circulation and ad spend (think newspaper and magazines), another form of "print" continues to thrive and is even enjoying a bit of a resurgence - direct mail.

The total spend in direct mail was on the rise in 2014. Against a prediction of 1.1%, the Winterberry Group reported spending up 2.7% last year as advertisers spent more than $45 billion in the category.

Why the increase? Because direct mail remains effective and with an infusion of digital technology in recent years, is more impactful than ever.

The days of carpet bombing "junk mail" are over. Savvy marketers are now thinking outside of the typical boundaries of the mailbox. As a result, their direct mail pieces serve both as key standalone vehicles as well as prime complementers to other broadcast and digital channels.

Whether you are choosing direct mail as an advertising vehicle for the first time, or revamping an existing program, here are a few tips to take advantage of that will make your spend more efficient and your program more effective:

Complement Digital Programs

Direct mail stands alone from digital channels and reaches consumers outside of their phone/tablet/computer.

It also provides the perfect vehicle to tie the two together. It goes without saying that creative and messaging between direct mail and digital should complement one another, but by utilizing QR codes and digital activation programs, the mail piece can be made to come alive and drive the consumer to web sites, online videos, social media and other digital assets.

The End of "One Version Fits All"

The printing process itself has benefited from digital technology in recent years.

Gone are the days of printing plates and expensive version changes that come from the world of offset printing.

Digital printing, (essentially a high quality, high speed version of that color printer/copier that may already be in your office), has advanced to the point that speed and cost is rivaling the traditional offset world.

Why is this important? There are no longer costly limitations on versions, allowing the advertiser to tailor offers, graphics, etc. to the household level. It is now possible for every household in a neighborhood to receive a different offer, addressed specifically to them by name using whatever graphics or fonts a designer can dream up. The industry label for this is Variable Data Printing, and it's a lot easier and cheaper than you might think.

Explore New Materials

Plastics, magnetics, decals - all viable media for a direct mail piece.

They may be more expensive than paper, but to get your message to stand out, there is nothing better.

Plastics in particular are becoming more popular as conventional couponing can take on the look, feel and functionality of a gift or loyalty card. The shiny, glass-like finish stands out in the mailbox and gets noticed among stacks of paper postcards, envelopes and catalogs.

The gift card look and feel has a perceived cash value by the consumer, and the durability of the media allows it to be retained for an extended period of time for later or repeated use. Magnetic stripes and barcodes further the functionality, integrating the mailer with a retailer's point of sale or loyalty system and making response tracking easier than ever.

From Carpet Bombing to Precision Targeting

It is no longer necessary to cover entire zip codes in a "carpet bomb" approach when mailing.

With the ever increasing cost of postage, it is imperative that you target precisely where your best prospects live and work in order to avoid wasted coverage and expense.

One zip code can house drastically different demographic groups within its borders, so even though the zip code may make sense from a geographic standpoint, there may be hundreds of households draining your budget with every mailing.

Look beyond zip code geography and analyze the postal carrier routes contained within each one.

Then let the demographics do the talking. You will be surprised at what you find. If your business is lucky enough to have a customer database to draw from (as many automotive service retailers and fitness clubs do), use this information to build your ideal customer profile.

Find out where your current customers are coming from, then match the demographics of those areas to others within your geography. "Fish where the fish are" so to speak. You'll find the fishing is a whole lot better when you're fishing at the right lake.

Direct mail remains an effective advertising vehicle, whether it's the foundation of your marketing program or complementing other efforts.

Call it old fashioned, outmoded or any one of the various adjectives associated with "print" these days, but the fact remains - it works.

The tried and true aspects of the media remain, while the production methods, media options and targeting strategies are better than ever before.

I recently had a client say to me: "I don't need to do anything else for my existing customers; I need to find new customers."

Dumbfounded, I couldn't wrap my head around this. Didn't she realize that it costs more to attract new customers than it does getting existing customers to buy more? In her defense, she was already working several other "channels" with blog posts, newsletters, email promotions and even an active podcast. She WAS communicating and building relationships.

But I am right...right?

Actually, you could argue that advertising and promotional activities aren't just about converting that first time customer. They are also about supporting the brand in current customer relationships. And current customers can typically enjoy the same discounts as prospective customers. However, communicating to existing customers without listening to what their actions tell you is no more efficient than continuing to look only for new customers- wherever they may be.

So where is the flaw in my client's thinking? Data. What she, and many other businesses, both large and small, has failed to do is look at the data collected on those existing customers. As a business, you must realize that you are unique, either by product location or a combination of many things. Even franchised concepts can serve a largely different demographic (which in turn could demand a unique product mix or price point) simply based on their location. You may also find that the way you communicate with current customers is not as effective as you thought.

Collecting data doesn't have to be a daunting task, but once you do collect it, it is essential to get it all in one place and actually look at it. "One place" can be as simple as utilizing a pivot table within an MS Excel document, to engagements with data analytics professionals. Either way, you've got to start somewhere.

Key places to look for data:

  • Receipts
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Social Media
  • Surveys
  • Contests
  • Coupons
  • Online (Google Analytics)
  • Demographic Research

If you are just starting to collect data, it's important to track each marketing channel so that you can not only determine response rates for a particular promotion, but also tie responses to the items purchased, the sales revenue and buying patterns. Use unique offer codes and ask for customer feedback if in direct contact during the sales process. When considering social media insight, be sure to compare and contrast it with what you are seeing from other marketing feedback specific to your business to get the true story.

Things you should you look for in your global data:

  • Patterns in the buying habits of your customers for discounting only when necessary
  • Potential efficiencies in marketing expenditures and product inventory
  • Processes that could be improved
  • Any risks or instances of fraud

An important thing to remember is that your data collection process should be unobtrusive enough so your customers don't feel harassed in the process. You should also be aware of Privacy Laws that impact how you manage your customer's information. In the end, a solid data collection and analysis strategy will tell you things about your business and your customers that you very likely didn't know, or validate what you suspected. If managed correctly, a long term relationship with data is one neither of you will regret.

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]

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