September 2015 Archives

So, What do You Do?

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"Elevator speeches" are a vital part of the marketing mix for all business owners. There are three components to a solid elevator speech -- the explanation, the value and the call to action.

The elevator speech in the following example is focused on a trade show and persuading people to visit our exhibit booth.

Start by stating your message in one sentence.

If you come to our booth, we will shoot an interview of you talking about what is unique about your brand, edit the interview and then deliver it to you so you can promote your message online.

Next, create value for what you do, which gives you credibility.

Our videographer is an Emmy-winner, so your video will be professional with a long shelf life.

Close with a call to action.

Come by our booth -- 654 on aisle 6 -- and we'll prep you, interview you, and then give you a video to use on your website, social media ...no strings attached and most definitely more useful than the tchotchkes other exhibitors are giving away.

Ding, first floor.

If you have more time than in an elevator, keep the same basic outline of an elevator speech while expanding on each section -- the explanation, the value and the call to action.

And not one elevator speech fits all occasions, so depending where you are and what you are trying to accomplish, prepare and practice.

Below is a quick fill-in-the-blank to craft your Elevator Speech:

For (audience) who want to (problem) , (company name) _ is the only company that (solution) because (Supporting Points)

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Does Flattery Still Work?

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Mr. Edward Domain, CEO of Techli.com once wrote jokingly that 'Flattery gets you everywhere these days!'

Certainly, flattery is used indiscriminately and intentionally, that I can't deny.

Yet, I've found there is significant marketing power in persuasion, sans manipulation! (FYI: 'sans' is 'without'! In other words, you don't want to be sans translation for your foreign clients!)

Along the way, here's three things I've noticed about persuasion:

- It's about listening versus hearing. Is there anything more frustrating than carefully articulating a challenge to a service provider, for example, only to be presented with a 'solution' to a different problem than yours? Listening is just the first step but there's no such thing as too much!

Clients take notice when you meet their specific challenge with a custom solution. Certainly obvious, but too often overlooked. (If you've had a warranty challenge, you understand perfectly!)

- Encouragement tops a compliment any day! Think about the most meaningful words you've been told. Encouragement usually centers on resilience, professional or personal. As opposed to a compliment, encouragement recognizes an obstacle you've overcome or a hard-won achievement and validates your determination.

And behind it lies the key: genuineness. The Dove campaign comes to mind- complimenting women for their strength, not complimenting their shape.

- Take the time to learn the lingo, and add some of your own to the mix! Ever had somebody try to sell you a service for your company when they hadn't a clue how you do what you do? Lingo: say what they mean, the way they say it! At Wild West, we've made it our business understand lingo, the language of our client's clients, whether we're proofing a training manual or transcribing a megachurch sermon series.

Try adding some of your own lingo to broaden the language of your clients!

Flattery might get you somewhere, but not necessarily to the sale or solution!

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Professionals don't endorse consumer products. For a variety of good reasons.

But, some professionals -including attorneys who really ought to know better- find themselves inadvertently being pitchmen. Because they are using "free" content marketing strategies.

Is this the picture you want your current clients to see?

Law Journal.png

I know Matthew, and despite being a franchisor side attorney, he is a good guy.

There are some consumer products that Matthew might want to pitch. But, I am pretty sure that Tiger Direct is not on the firm's list of consumer products to be endorsing!

Matthew is a well respected and valued franchise attorney.

Yet, the franchising audience will judge the Armstrong Teasdale subliminally by the products placed by their articles.

It is not fair, but what else do you expect if you aren't paying for it?

How else can you own white space without paying to exclude display ads?

Someone ought to really tell Armstrong Teasdale that they can get great distribution of their franchise articles, without the display ads they don't want, but they do have to pay a whopping $400/month for the audience.

(Armstrong Teasdale would like me to clarify that Matthew has not been an employee of the firm for over 2 years.)

Franchise organizations face many challenges in the digital age. Chief among them is how to effectively market their national brand at a local and hyper-local level.

And, selecting a tool to power that evolving digital strategy is no easy task. Corporate marketing teams are forced to wade through dozens of systems--all claiming to support their needs, but many lacking the unique functionality required in the franchise space.

The following list summarizes 5 key features that should be present in your digital marketing platform:

1. Integration

Integrated software streamlines your digital ecosystem, helping organizations connect the dots between each of its channels to track trends, performance, and opportunities.

So ask yourself, does your website builder integrate with a variety of 3rd-party applications to support your needs for email marketing, social media, data consolidation and even eCommerce? Or, is it a single tool that has all of this necessary functionality, thereby sharing the underlying user data, content and administration features?

The difference can mean a lot--from unknown 3rd-party license costs to painful and ever-changing "integrations" with tools you don't control.

2. Ease of use

We're not exactly breaking news here, but even the best tools and features are essentially rendered useless if users, at every level of the organization, are unaware of how to properly put it to use.

The key to a great web platform starts with superior usability. Understanding how your franchisees and your marketing team will administer your site is a critical step in your decision making. Make

sure you get a preview of your most common use cases--from setting up a local email campaign to posting on franchisee's Facebook page or updating their homepage content.

3. Distributed-model best practices

Any solid franchise web marketing system will have a distributed model that offers easy-to-deploy microsites to each location. This means everything from a seamless setup process, a franchise dashboard and--most importantly--ongoing support for your franchisees.

Beyond that, a shared repository for marketing campaigns that give each location the ability to opt in, participate and localize the messaging for them is critical. All with a permissions-based environment to make sure brand consistency and messaging are never lost.

4. Local (and Mobile) Marketing

It goes without saying, any platform a franchise might consider has to put local marketing at its forefront. But what does that mean? Step one is a clear focus on search engine optimization to allow franchise organizations to meaningfully localize content and SEO meta data. Step two is a deeper understanding of the online directory space, to make sure local information is accurate, maintained, and follows the established best practices defined by the schema.org protocol.

Beyond that, delivering that local experience within a mobile device is imperative as mobile usage continues to skyrocket. Consider things like the franchisees' ability to preview content in various devices, how website content changes from one device to the other and even how a franchisee can update their site on their own mobile device.

5. Multi-Location Management

Well over half of franchisees own at least two units in an organization. And these Multi-Unit owners tend to have a great deal of influence on the organization.

A good digital marketing platform will cater to Multi-Unit owners through a single-login that allows them to manage each of their locations on one dashboard. Specific Multi-Unit owner management capabilities need to be there--giving a user the option edit and publish content to specific locations or make bulk changes.

Here is our free checklist--->>

The Top 6 Most Effective Methods of Online Marketing for Multi-unit Organizations to help you implement your own franchise's online marketing.

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As a franchisor working to expand your brand, you want to take advantage of every tool available to generate qualified leads, but have you incorporated blogging into your franchise development strategy?

I joined the roundtable discussion on "How to Use Blogging to Better Impact Your Franchise Development Strategy" by Jordy Patano of No Limit Agency at the International Franchise Association's annual conference in Las Vegas.

Patano works with franchise brands to market themselves to prospective franchisees, including incorporating blogging into their franchise development strategy, and I wasn't surprised to hear her endorse blogging as a key element in a successful franchise development strategy.

A vocal naysayer at the table expressed strong skepticism that blogging could do anything to help his company attract mature, financially secure prospective franchisees with well over $100,000 to invest -- because only young people with no money read blogs.

That's a common misconception, but Patano and other roundtable participants explained three important reasons why blogging can help any franchisor and in fact is a vital element of a successful franchise development strategy.

  • Blogging boosts your brand's SEO. In Patano's work with dozens of franchise brands, she said she has found the first step prospective franchisees take in their research process is a Google search. So if you want them to find your brand, you need to make sure you have strong SEO -- and you won't get that without good content. Google rewards brands that post quality, original content by moving their websites up in search results.
  • Blogging demonstrates your expertise. The information a brand provides in its blog posts shows prospective franchisees that the brand is an expert in its field. It also shows them that the brand is an expert in employing the franchising model. These are both vital because a prospective franchisee only wants to seriously consider a brand that's obviously serious about its industry and franchising.
  • Blogging keeps your website up to date. You can constantly update information on your brand through your blog. This is much quicker, easier and less expensive than having to get technical help every time you need to post new information.

After covering the reasons why blogging is an important part of a successful franchise development strategy, the discussion moved to how best to blog to generate qualified leads.

  • Be consistent. Consistency is more important than frequency for SEO purposes. It's better to do one or two good posts each week and to make sure they go online at about the same time than it is to flood your blog with mediocre posts every day.
  • Push the person over the brand. Your brand may be your focus, but its your people -- both franchisees and corporate staffers -- who are going to help you forge a connection with prospective franchisees that will lead them to buy into your brand. You can't forget that "people make brands," said Patano. Create written blog posts and videos that contain testimonials from people who love being a part of your brand. Have franchisees explain why they bought into your brand over all of the others available these days.
  • Create connections with your content. "Nothing stands alone today," said Patano. It's about creating cross connections between everything that happens with your brand. That's something you can do by incorporating blogging into your larger strategy, including social media, white papers and traditional marketing tactics.
  • Be careful about your tone. Patano said her agency uses a fun, active voice in their clients' blogs and stays away from more stiff, formal writing. She also warned against being overly promotional in your blog posts, saying it's better to provide relevant information and communicate your expertise than to push your brand on people. Following this advice helps to engage prospective franchisees and earn their trust in you as a company they're considering investing a significant amount of their money in.

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Once upon a time a tribe of people called Marketers prospered in a bountiful land.

Some Marketers became wealthy and famous using the Traditions handed down by generations.

One particular Tradition, called Interrupting, was especially fruitful and popular. It had many aspects, such as phoning people you don't know to sell them duct cleaning. Sometimes the duct cleaner Marketers even mailed flyers, letters or postcards to promote their service.

TV and radio advertising blasted the airwaves in the Marketers' land. And it wasn't just duct cleaners-mattress companies, soft drink manufacturers, funeral homes, restaurants and drug stores also participated in this Marketers Tradition.

When computers were invented, Marketers embraced the new technology with more Interrupting Traditions. Email and pop-up ads proliferated, selling everything from books, credit cards, consulting services and more.

One day a rock band called The Grateful Dead came to the Marketers land. They were different from other bands--their business model was built on touring, instead of on album sales. The Grateful Dead encouraged live audiences to record their concerts and trade tapes with one another, plus they built a database that allowed them to sell concert tickets directly to their fans.

The Dead (as they were affectionately known) quickly attracted a loyal following. Some fans attended so many concerts they could barely remember how many.

The Grateful Dead became very popular with a small group of Marketers. If The Grateful Dead can have avid groupies, one of them asked, why can't we?

Fans aren't just for rock stars, realized another.

I'm really tired of being interrupted by duct cleaners who phone at dinner time, said a third. What if we invited people to sign up to get information from us? And then only sent information to those people?

Let's share information about duct cleaning, said a fourth. And then let our duct cleaning fans share it with others.

And so a new tribe of Marketers was born, who called themselves Inbound Marketers.

The Inbound Marketers traveled the land to share their wisdom. At first, some Marketers were reluctant to embrace their new ideas. Initially there were misconceptions about the Inbound Marketers, but eventually these misconceptions came to be known as fairy tales only simpletons believed.

If you haven't heard about these fairy tales it's worth taking a look:

#1 Inbound Marketing Doesn't Work

Inbound marketing DOES work and I've got the analytics to prove it. Since I started inbound marketing my web visitors and visits to conversions both increased over 200%.

online marketing myths

And I'm not the only one.

Just head on over to HubSpot's case studies to read about countless other companies successfully using inbound marketing to build their business.

#2 Only Good Writers Can Be Content Creators

Content creation is one of the most important aspects of inbound marketing. But you don't have to be a great writer to create content others want to read.

I read a lot of marketing blogs every day and very few of them are written by really great writers. If you've got a good idea and basic written literacy skills, you can definitely blog and create premium content.

#3 Lead Nurturing Is Just Email With A Fancy Name

Lead nurturing is email-plus a whole lot more.

When a web visitor converts into a lead on your site by downloading a piece of premium content, it's an indication they've got a problem you can help solve.

For example, if they download your eBook on how to find an inbound marketing company, they'll want to read more about the topic.

And that's exactly what lead nurturing does. It provides them with more information that positions you as an expert, while moving leads through the sales funnel until they become customers.

#4 Leads Leave Fake Names On Conversion Forms

This fairy tale is partially true. Some leads do leave fake names. But in my experience, most people leave their real names, email addresses and phone numbers.

Inbound marketing is a numbers game. If a few leads are phonies, that's OK since I'm nurturing a lot of other people in my funnel who are real AND really interested in our PR, social media and online marketing services.

This post was inspired by Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan.

YOUR TURN

What do you think about these inbound marketing fairy tales? Are they true? Or just myths to which Traditional Marketers are clinging?










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

Readers of this blog will know that I am a HubSpot Partner and I offer the platform as one of my solutions. This does not mean that all of my customers use HubSpot nor does it mean that I think every online business should use HubSpot. Part of my job is to help my customers analyze their situation and find the solution that will be right for them.

That solution may be HubSpot or it may be Google Ad Words or a WordPress website. There are a number of blogs that have addressed this question and several have gone into a feature by feature comparison. I am not going to go into that much detail here but I'll give you the links to those blogs below.

WordPress and HubSpot are tools and like all tools the valuable tools get the job you need done. If you have a flat tire the nicest wrench set is not going to help you if you do not have a jack and a hand cranked jack will lift your car just as much as an hydraulic jack. When you put up a business website you use the tools available to achieve your online business goals.

A business selling online jewelry will have different business goals and a different tool set than a million dollar consultant.

But your knowledge, skill-set and resources may also influence your decision. A master chef can probably make a great omelet with an old frying pan and an electric plate. The chef can do a lot more with a kitchen set up with the tools and utensils the chef needs. (If I were put in that well stocked kitchen I would probably still burn the omelet so I should be left with the electric plate.)

WordPress Has All You Need

The amazing thing about WordPress is that it is free. You can also get for free, or for a very low price, just about any plug-in or widget for WordPress that will enable you to do anything you want to do online. WordPress is very versatile and with some HTML skills or by purchasing a specialized WordPress theme you can make your site look amazing.

All the tools you need to do any of tasks associated with inbound or online marketing can be added to your WordPress site. You can connect MailChimp to WordPress for email and a newsletter.

There are plugins for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Plugins will help you optimize your webpage for SEO or you can add a paid service such as SEOmoz. And we should not forget that WordPress is one of the web's most popular blogging tools.

Notice that I did not say plugins can be "easily added" and the best tools are not usually free. Certainly there are easy and free plugins and WordPress tools but for the most part if you need to do serious work you need to spend a lot of time or spend some money. For example Google Analytics and Google WebTools are very powerful, free tools that give you deep, analytical information about your website.

Most website owners I've talked to have not even put the tracking code in the website never mind delving into the reports and tables. If they do they concentrate on useless metrics like how long someone was on a page. You can also pay between $99 and $499 a month to have a tool like KISSmetrics help you track and interpret this same information.

HubSpot is a Well-Stocked Kitchen

Even if you are not a chef it sometimes helps to have a small pan and a large skillet in the kitchen. It would be even better if the kitchen utensils were labeled so you knew the best pan to fry an omelet or sauté some vegetables. That is what HubSpot does. It puts the tools you need together and integrates them in a way that it is easier to tell what you should do and what is working.

For example when I look at the report that tells me how many people came to my website it also tells me why they came. Did they come because of my Facebook post or because they were searching for a keyword? Do I sell more products when people are responding to a tweet or an email? To top it all off the report is in color so for my simple mind, I can get a visual snapshot almost immediately and delve into the details when I can.

Do Not Use HubSpot, If ...

If you are just going into the kitchen to boil an egg do not bother with HubSpot. At the end of six months you'll be looking at your bank account with a negative balance and you will be frustrated and angry. If your goal is to make beautiful websites that amaze the eye and stimulate the senses do not bother with HubSpot. Not that you can't make beautiful websites on HubSpot but that is not its main purpose.

If you want the freedom to build anything on your website with any tool you choose then do not bother with HubSpot, you may find it too restricting.

If you just need a static website to act as an electronic calling card, then do not bother with HubSpot, it is overkill.

If you have a small cash flow and no plans to use online marketing to increase business then do not bother with HubSpot because you will go broke.

But, if you are a marketer or online business and you want to be freed from the burden of getting the information you need to make business decisions then consider HubSpot.

And, if you want to know what marketing actions affect your bottom line then consider HubSpot.

If you want tools you need in one place then consider HubSpot.

If you want to concentrate on marketing and not web development then consider HubSpot.

Other Bloggers Weigh in on HubSpot vs. WordPress

A number of other bloggers have gone into much more detail than I have on the features and the pros and cons of HubSpot and WordPress. Here is a brief list:

Marcus Sheridan is The Sales Lion and a small businessman who achieved a lot with HubSpot. He also has an extensive background in WordPress and his two blogs, The Most Important Customer Review of Hubspot You'll Ever Read and The Most In-Depth HubSpot Vs. WordPress Review Ever Written, go into a lot of depth with a feature by feature analysis.

Zach Browne is an internet veteran with lots of experience doing custom websites and CRM deployments. His blog HUBSPOT VS WORDPRESS FOR SEO, IS HUBSPOT WORTH IT? is posted on his WordPress site.

Adarsh Thampy is the Conversion Champ and another non-HubSpot user who goes into a lot of detail in his blog Hubspot Review: Should You Buy This Inbound Marketing Tool? As a follow up he posted WordPress: A FREE Alternative to Hubspot, that lays out exactly what you need to have to match HubSpot's functionality on Wordpress. At the bottom of this blog he has a quiz that will help you decide what platform to use.

From my friend Doug Kirk, CEO of Optimize 3.0 we have #1 Reason Why Hubspot Doesn't Work | Hubspot Fails| Hubspot good? Doug is a HubSpot user but has a great perspective on why it doesn't work for many people.

One caveat on these reviews, HubSpot keeps making upgrades and changes to its system. Many of these reviews were written before the upgrade to HubSpot3 so there have been many changes and upgrades to the HubSpot feature set.

Tell me what your favorite platform is and why you prefer it in the comments section below. But take a look at the video from HubSpot.

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

In the January 21, 2013 issue of The New Yorker financial reporter James Surowiecki writes about the sunk-cost effect.

In the article Surowiecki uses the example of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets extended Shanchez's contract and will pay him $8.25 million next year even though he has thrown more career interceptions than touchdowns. The Jets bet big on Sanchez and against all evidence they are hoping that their investment will pay off if they keep at it.

This not only happens in sports it happens in big and small businesses all the time. You have invested, or sunk, a lot of time and money into a project and even though it is not getting results you continue to invest. I often see this with online businesses who have a new website that is not getting the results they need but will not give it up because they have invested so much in it.

The article quotes Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University, "Abandoning a project that you've invested a lot in feels like you've wasted everything, and waste is something we're told to avoid".

It's not only about waste it is about reputations. Giving up on a project is like admitting a mistake and accepting failure is something that is very hard to do. In sports you can fire the coaches (something the Jets did do) and in business you can bring in a new manager. Not having been part of the original decision new blood can look objectively at a problem and make changes without admitting having made a mistake.

This is a lot harder to do in a small business or for those of us who are sole proprietors or solopreneurs. Abandoning a failed project also goes against the common business ethos to just stick with it. If quitters never win then when you quit you are a failure. Investing more in a poor quarterback or a failed online marketing strategy is what is called "escalation of commitment" and it just deepens the sink hole.

When to Dump Your Online Business Strategy

There are definite advantages to sticking to a project, marketing plan or a business but you need to know when you are being patient and steadfast or just plain obstinate. Every successful enterprise or winning team has had its dips and disappointments but that does not mean that success is on the other side of every dip or sink hole.

Any small business faced with this dilemma needs to read Seth Godin's The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit. In fact one quotable Godin insight is, "Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations". It is hard to admit a mistake and move on so my advice is to reframe your outlook and think like a scientist.

    • Experiment: Everything you do is an experiment. Some things will work and other things will fail. Accept and keep the successes and dump the failures. As Seth Godin says, "Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-de-Sacs to focus your resources".
    • It's not personal: If success depended on our good looks and intentions then more successful people would be well intentioned and good looking. If something you tried fails you are not the failure. Unless you keep trying the same failed project.
    • Rely on statistics: Did the project increase web traffic? Did it decrease sales? Rely on the numbers and do not get personally invested in the outcome.
    • Focus on the goal: One of the hardest things to know is what activity is moving you toward the goal and what is keeping you away from the goal. To quote Godin again, "Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can't see it".

None of this is easy. If it were we would all be champions, but it is possible to move beyond the sink hole.

In The New Yorker article Surowiecki tells how the Seattle (my home town) Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn to a hefty free-agent contract. Even though the Seahawks had a lot invested in Flynn and he had a guaranteed contract, new draftee Russell Wilson outperformed Flynn and was put in the starting lineup.

A heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of the Atlanta Falcons game doesn't diminish Wilson's role in getting the Seahawks into the playoffs.

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

I know what you're thinking. Good local store marking, the kind that drives traffic and adds profit to your bottom line, goes hand and hand with countless unpaid hours of man-power. It does.

A sign alone will not a profit make. Local marketing is highly important and here's why, besides the fact that McDonald's is doing it...

1) Competition: First and foremost, in this day and age competition is intense! This is especially true of the fast casual segment where there's a new concept (or 5) opening daily. And there's something for everyone with concepts ranging from Just Salads to Mongolian BBQ as done by Ghengis Grill.

In addition, many already successful brands are exploring growth via daypart expansion or new services. Chipotle just announced they will add catering for 20 - 200 to all units in the coming months as a way to grow sales.

How will you stand out, be memorable to your target?

Offering what consumers want in your immediate area is a start, but now you need to reach your target with the message. If your intention is to reach moms and families, a Little League Team sponsorship or a school fundraiser night will be noticed.

Hey, a little you scratch my back I'll scratch yours never hurt anyone if everyone is happy.

(As shown in the blog post, "If I were a roller derby girl" by gobecky.blogspot.com)

2) Targeting: While a national presence is great, I think we can all agree that marketing is not a one-size-fits all proposition.

Every state has it's own nuances and for that matter every city and even every community! A college town will require a different local marketing approach than a sleepy seaside town that only booms for a few months out of the year during tourist season.

3) Scandalous Situations: For better or for worse, social media is here to stay and everyone but everyone wants to have their say. A disgruntled employee or a simple customer miscommunication can quickly turn to bad press with the click of a button.

Businesses with a strong basis in community maintain at least some protection from potentially business busting bad press.

I recall a situation in which a rumor was started by an angry high school student at a locally owned popular Mexican franchise restaurant in small town Pennsylvania. Sales were immediately impacted and the City Mayor actually spoke to the community on the importance of disregarding silly rumors and to support our local business operators that are supporting the community through fundraisers, school donations, and providing jobs. False accusations were quickly squelched and we can roll with that kind of community reinforcement!

4) Buy Local: It would appear the more things become available on a global level, the more people push to buy local. Don't believe me? Just type "Buy Local" into your search engine and you'll find a host of Buy Local websites committed to what has truly become a movement. Be a part of that movement by ensuring you're recognized as a part of your local community.

5) Local Media: Should it be in your mix? I'm voting Yes! A recent study by Millward Brown suggested that local media definitely matters when it comes to connecting with your community, i.e. your customer base. In fact, 71% of those surveyed felt proud of the area in which they lived and 67% felt connected because they knew a lot of people within their neighborhood. This would suggest an opportunity to market on a local level utilizing that strong connection that is not felt from a National level.

DJ Endorsements can be a perfect solution to capitalize on the community tie-in. With word-of-mouth appeal, listeners feel a connection with local radio personalities that can relate to them on a personal level through radio programming.

The Radio Advertising Bureau noted that endorsements typically drive a 400% increase in response over non-endorsed spots. (Source: Robinson Radio Networks).

Of course the right message on the right station with the right DJ is critical to the success of a campaign.

Additionally, a 2011 study conducted by The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and commissioned by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) found this interesting data in regards to local newspaper readership:

Three-fourth of residents (74%) in small cities and towns in the United States read a local newspaper ranging from 1 day to 7 days a week; majority of the readers (81%) relied on the newspapers for local news and information.

One more great reason to spend some more time on local marketing: your customers aren't flying in, they are right around the corner.

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]

As a franchisor, you've dedicated years to your business, built its reputation and perfected your products - so what do you do when you know when others are sullying your business reputation?

If your next major business step is to franchise your brand then reputation management becomes vital. You have to monitor and if necessary defend your brand's reputation. You definitely don't want to deter potential franchisees.

With the increasing number of review sites, social media and blogs it's great for the consumer to find information. But do you know what's being said about your business online?

Reputation Management - Addressing the Issue

It's a tough problem, and it's even tougher knowing that the majority of your customers are happy and satisfied. Yet there's always a few who complain. Any potential franchisor who has had his own business for any length of time may expect to come across a few complaints - he should understand it's a part of doing business.

You can't please all the people all the time.

The worst of it is those complaints and negative reviews may exist without you knowing it, adversely influencing your potential customers and franchisees.

You had a good month, how do you know you could have had an even better month if only it wasn't for Bert from Boston spreading his discontent online? Did Bert actually contact your customer service department to talk about his problem?

The only way to find out is to conduct reputation monitoring and address each complainant as you find them.

Set up a Google Alert for each of your brand names and your company name, or use a similar service offered by Technorati which alerts you via RSS feed. If the majority of your feedback is positive, then great, build on it further by thanking those who did leave a positive review.

Addressing Negative Feedback

But in the case of negative feedback forewarned is definitely forearmed.

Sometimes a customer may have a valid complaint. Bert from Boston could have called your customer service department and been blown off or promised something he never received like a replacement part.

By talking to Bert directly you may get to the root cause of the problem. You may need to retrain your customer service personnel as a result, or improve your product. If either is lacking, then improvement is positive for both your business and your customers.

The negative side will be if you ignore the issue. Bert could leave negative reviews on dozens of sites and on FaceBook and Twitter. It could spread like a virus, so reputation management should have been addressed as soon as the first complaint appeared.

It is how you address individual people and issues that will enhance or decrease your business reputation.

When others see that you are striving to resolve Bert's problem, the negativity may just be turned around. Most people don't expect things to be perfect every time, but they don't expect to be ignored.

Make Bert happy and you may just find he'll start spreading the word about how great your company is at resolving problems. The franchisee will see how you handle complaints the right way, and should be impressed. Problem solved.

Yet, you will always get people who complain just for the sake of it. You may even find that negative reviews are being posted by a competitor. Yes it happens, and it's difficult to prove.

That's a job for your lawyer if you feel it's seriously impacting your revenue.

Train Your Staff

Many social media sites, blogs and forums rank well in Google and may come above yours in the SERPs. You don't want a prospective franchisee reading response-less negative reviews of your business before he picks up the phone.

Train one of your customer service staff in proactive reputation management. Have that person be responsible for checking those alerts and RSS feeds daily.

They should then become skilled at responding quickly and diplomatically to any complaints and be able to manage your business reputation online effectively.

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In early 2103, the Director of the CIA became the latest example showing that managing an online profile and a professional reputation is very difficult.

Many people bemoan the fact that your personal life can be so easily exposed and what many consider private conversations can be so public. It is true and in spite of warnings for at least the past 20 years to not put anything in an email that you would not want your Mother to read on the front page of the New York Times many people do just that and are shocked when their private emails end up on the front page of the New York Times.

Not only is it fairly easy to find salacious tidbits and scandalous gossip online, with Facebook and Twitter the news spreads faster, is distorted quicker and travels further than at any time in history.

No wonder many are reluctant to get involved, especially if your reputation is important to your business or career.

Many people I talk to balk when I say that because of their business they have to get involved with social media and need to maintain a good online profile. "No way," they say to me, "did you see the 'Social Network?' Nothing is private anymore."

We need put this into perspective, however.

The last 100 years or so have represented a brief period in history where people could live a private life and a public life.

Billie Holiday used to sing:

If I go to church on Sunday
And I shimmy down on Monday,
It ain't nobody's business if I do.

When we look back at the idyllic village and small town America of the 19th century we often extol the independent small businessman and the local shopkeeper who knew their customers and provided for their needs. We envy the farmer who worked hard then helped his neighbor raise a barn or the friendly cop on the beat who knew everybody's name.

Many people have compared the new online digital village to this romantic, neighborly past.

That may be an over simplification but unlike the mass businesses of the 20th century today's online businesses can better connect to, know and cater to their customers. For more about this read my blogs about Seth Godin's new book, "We Are All Weird," and What Seth Godin's "Weird" Can Teach Us about Social Media Marketing.

The down side of the personal relationship of the villages is that everybody knew what everybody else was doing. If the blacksmith's assistant kissed the farmer's daughter behind the barn you can be pretty sure everybody in town knew about it. The new world of online commerce and community also brings a transparency that many of us are not used to. What should you do about it?

Well, first off, you need to be more realistic about your expectations. If you want to be able to reach a wider market online in a personal way that connects with your customers you need to be prepared for a certain level of transparency.

If you are trying to be an alternative to impersonal mass marketers and opaque large businesses then embrace the opportunity for transparency and connection. If your personal beliefes and actions support your business and connect with your customers then shout it from the roof top and tweet till the cows come home. If your personal believes and actions do not mesh with your customers' then be a bit more discreet.

Being discreet means you need to be more careful online. Now I want to go on record as one who really doesn't care what someone does in their private life. That is their business.

I also believe in free speech. I think anyone can say what they want as long as it does not harm another person. Does that mean that I think anyone can and should say and do anything they want?

Well it depends. If you are trying to earn a living online and your business or career depends upon your reputation, then yes, you need to watch what you say. As one online business person told me, posting political or religious opinions on their Facebook page would be like a shopkeeper putting a sign in their window that said: All Welcome except Democrats and Methodists. Why turn away business when that business has nothing to do with personal beliefs and politics?

If your doing business online or if you represent a company or organization and you are active online you need to be careful, even with very personal matters like our friends in the CIA. Monitor your business, your name and your reputation online and avoid giving others the ammunition they need to make your life difficult.

For some more information take a look at some of my past blogs on how to maintain your professional online profile.

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When building your digital brand through content and social media, it is so important to consider the experience you give to your audience. Creating positive experiences online for your audience will develop trust and keep them coming back for more.

The list below is not exhaustive. It includes some online practices that have become more and more common, but they are less and less effective for cultivating trust.

The last thing you want to do is distract your audience, waste their time, or lose their trust.

These are big risks to take in the digital age.

1) Pop-ups

Yes I know the data says that they work. I'm referring to those pesky little pop-ups that greet you on a blog or website just as you're settling in to consume that wonderful blog post. Pop-ups are intrusive and distracting.

2) Lengthy Forms

There are times to ask for more information from your visitors, but not every time you have something valuable to share. Give some content away that is not behind a form on occasion. Also, maybe just ask for a first name and email address rather than the kitchen sink. Relationship building is a process. Start the relationship first, and gather more information as you build more trust.

3) Heavy Ads

The major media and industry trade sites are the biggest offenders here, and I understand they have to be given the dependence on ad revenue. Some of these sites, however, make it an obstacle course just to get to the article you're trying to reach!

Your audience will be conditioned after a few times of going through your obstacle course not to click through again because it's just too much trouble. Many bloggers make use of heavy ads as well. At some point, too many ads can reduce your credibility and be off-putting to your visitors to the point of no return.

4) Off-target Landing Pages

So you're running social engagement ads on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, but following the link in your ad takes your audience somewhere without telling them what to do next, or even worse, they land on your website homepage?

LinkedIn ads are especially notorious for this!.

It seems that if you're going to spend budget on social ads that you would have also considered what you want the person to do once they've clicked. It kills me to see all of those wasted ad dollars.

5) Sales Pitch Emails

Most of us agree that the value is in the list. Getting into the email inboxes of your target audience is critical for cultivating and strengthening relationships. Therefore, your email communications should be delivered with that in mind.

It's okay to pitch something (tastefully) from time to time, but make sure it's truly a value-added offer for your audience.

There is a right time to ask for the order and certainly there are ways to do so creatively. If you're constantly pitching offers and claiming that each of them is urgent, unique, and important, eventually your audience will catch on and realize it's less about them and more about you.

6) Deceiving Headlines

I know, I know, everyone says you have to master the art of writing great headlines. However, should we be doing this at the expense of quality, value, and substance? If you write and share a great headline on social networks, back it up with equally great content.

Some of the most popular news sites and blogs are the guilty of this one. It's become a game of who can craft the best headlines to grab attention versus what content is really worthy of clicks and shares.

7) Bad Design

Whether you have a small or big following in social media, your blog or website is your brand. It's the first and lasting impression. Even if you do have great content, an unprofessional web presence will totally ruin it.

This includes your site design, layout, and even the formatting of your blog posts. I'm amazed at the number of individuals and companies who throw together a blog just to say they are blogging without giving attention to professional design.

This is just an area where you cannot skimp.

What have I missed?

I know I've left some items off of the list, can you please help me add to it in the comments? Or throw out a tweet about it with the hashtag #stopdoingthis. (I wanted to also add "list posts" to the list, but I needed to use one for this post!)

You can find Stephanie on Google+

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