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Many social seller swear by their SSI score.

Others, equally adept at selling swear at the SSI score.

Lots of opinions, what's yours?

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Several years ago, Joe Caruso, wrote a very well received story "ABC's Shark Tank Sushi Franchise Fiasco."

Now, we want to present a slightly different & more upbeat story -- How to Pitch to the Sharks. Stay tuned for the final in September.

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I find this a little too creepy.

Who wants to find out that your local QSR has been hacked and everyone knows what you have ordered for the last 3 years?




          No one would have blamed Sarah Gabbard if she had curled up in her house with her two young girls and done nothing for a very long time. In fact, most people would have expected it. Come to think of it, if they found themselves in the same situation as the now 39-year-old found herself in almost four years ago, most would have done the exact same thing. But they don't know Sarah Gabbard.

          Gabbard was leading a "very normal life" in her words on May 28, 2015. She was married to her high school sweetheart, Chad, who owned a thriving industrial cleaning company with two locations that he had started while in college with nothing more than a weed eater and a pressure washer. The couple had two girls, Olivia and Ava, and Sarah worked as a speech-language pathologist in the local school district. "It was crazy how successful Chad's business became," Gabbard said. "I always admired what he had done but I was too scared to do something like that for myself, so I chose the comfortable, safe 9-to-5 approach."

Chad had been traveling for business that May day and had stayed at a condo the couple owned in Lexington the previous night. Sarah was having trouble reaching Chad by phone and immediately felt a sense of foreboding. "I knew something was wrong. I could just feel it," she said. "I can't explain it, but I just felt like someone had punched me in the gut." Sarah jumped in her car and drove to the condo, where she found Chad had passed away from a congenital AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation), which is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, usually in the brain or spine. If they rupture, they cause bleeding in the brain. Brain AVMs occur in less than one percent of the population. Chad was 36 years old in perfect health and had never experienced any symptoms.

          Looking back, Sarah has little memory of the weeks and events that followed Chad's death. "I feel like it was God protecting me from what had just taken place," Gabbard said. "The next few weeks were a whirlwind. I had to deal with not only the personal side of just losing my husband, but I also had to figure out what to do with a business that had 30 employees and two locations."

          Though she now faced the daunting task of having to make so many critical decisions on her own, Gabbard was steadfast on one matter. She was holding onto Chad's business no matter what, even though she had several offers to sell. "I can't explain why, but I just couldn't imagine not having this business in our lives anymore, and for my daughters, even though I had ZERO experience with industrial cleaning," Gabbard said. "Again, I can't explain it. It was just my gut feeling."

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Olivia, Sarah and Ava Gabbard

          However, Gabbard quickly discovered there was no such thing as hitting the "pause button" when faced with the daily challenges of running a small business in eastern Kentucky. For seasonal businesses such as Chad's, winters are notoriously slow. "Work just seemed to come to a screeching halt. I couldn't stand it and felt like we were losing so much money by just being idle," Gabbard said. "I knew we had to find something to occupy the guys over the winter."

          One of Gabbard's employees, Josh, was diligent in researching business opportunities, though she said with a grin, "many of his suggestions were terrible and we still laugh about it to this day." But Josh more than made up for all his misses when he came upon an online advertisement for Paul Davis Restoration, one of the most trusted brands in the insurance restoration industry and a company that has been at the forefront of innovation in the property damage, emergency services and restoration industry since 1966. "It looked like the perfect fit and work that we could easily handle," Gabbard said.

          While slow and steady might work for some, that's never been Gabbard's mindset. After contacting the corporate office, Gabbard and Josh were on a plane to Jacksonville, Fla., a week later to attend Discovery Day at Paul Davis. While there, Gabbard met other prospective franchisees, many of whom got a good chuckle when learning how much time she had spent doing her "homework" on the company. "They had researched this company for months, and here I was a week after hearing the Paul Davis name for the first time. It was hysterical to see their faces when they would ask me how long I had been looking at this franchise opportunity and I would reply, 'seven days.' I have no doubt they thought I was crazy," Gabbard said.

          But while some individuals might need the reassurance of reams of research to make an important decision, Gabbard once again relied on an instinct that has never failed her. "I loved what I saw when I was in Jacksonville. It felt like the perfect fit," Gabbard said. "I wanted to buy in that very day. I just knew."

          Gabbard knew and she was right. Again. Almost 3 years have passed since Paul Davis River Cities launched operations in September 2016, covering large portions of eastern Kentucky, southern Ohio and southern West Virginia from its home base in Worthington, Ky.

With more than 375 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing. Though it remains a largely male-dominated industry, husband-and-wife teams and women are finding that a Paul Davis franchise can be a perfect fit for their particular needs. But that didn't mean Gabbard didn't run into outside naysayers who questioned whether she would be a good fit for the restoration industry, even though Paul Davis welcomed her with open arms and made her feel like family.  "I was told an insane amount of times that 'I couldn't do this' or 'this wasn't a job for a woman,'" Gabbard said. "I had so many people try and talk me into going back into speech therapy because it was the safe choice. That only made me want to become a Paul Davis franchisee even more. It was like pouring gasoline on a fire!"

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Ava, Sarah and Olivia Gabbard

Since its launch, Paul Davis River Cities has gone from initially providing only mitigation services to becoming a full-service restoration company. Obviously not one who relishes idle time, Gabbard also bought a pest control franchise while making sure the company Chad had founded - Pressure Tech Inc. - continued to prosper. Finally having the chance to reflect on the path she has taken over these last few years, Gabbard feels she has lived up to the expectations she set for herself when it came to raising Olivia and Ava - even if it was a whirlwind at times.

"The crazier it got, the more I enjoyed it. I loved the chaos and not knowing what each day would bring. I was still trying to be a regular mom at the same time and I still say that my girls were the driving force behind me wanting to take on so much at once," Gabbard said. "It was very important to me that they had the same security they felt when Chad was still here. I wanted them to know that their mom could handle it and we were going to be just fine. 

I wholeheartedly think Pressure Tech and Paul Davis saved my life. As dramatic as that sounds, I found a love for being an entrepreneur that I never knew I had. These businesses made me get out of bed in the morning when I could have easily made the decision not to and no one would have blamed me."

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A few years ago, Brad Cowan made the switch from dealing with sets of wheels to wet basements. 

However, it was a natural transition for the 52-year-old Cowan, who in 2015 retired from his position as a Corporate Vice President in the Insurance Replacement Division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car to become Senior Vice President of Business Development with Paul Davis, the one-stop disaster and reconstruction franchisor based in Jacksonville, Florida.

 


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While one business deals with moving vehicles and the other with stationary buildings, Cowan found many similarities that dovetailed with the business experience he earned during a 24-year career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where Cowan started as a manager trainee in a rental branch fresh out of college in 1991. 

In his role as a Corporate Vice President at Enterprise, Cowan worked closely with insurance companies and body shops to support customers during the auto claims process.

Likewise, Cowan now oversees Paul Davis' national business partnerships, as well as the national business development team, while also developing new programs for the Paul Davis Network.

With more than 375 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing with a business model that Cowan said is very similar in scope to what he experienced at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "The rapid growth here feels like Enterprise did 25 years ago when I first started there," Cowan said.

While always looking for qualified franchise candidates, Paul Davis is also expanding its geographic footprint of company-owned territories, recently completing two acquisitions, one in Kentucky and the other in Seattle. The first provides additional service coverage and capabilities between the Eastern and Midwest regions of Paul Davis company-owned operations, while the acquisition of the Seattle franchise adds a presence in another major metropolitan market which will serve as the foundation for a new regional platform on the West Coast.

"Paul Davis and the property industry are in a growth mode and we are in a great position to support our customers and provide opportunities for great people," Cowan said. 

"Our decision to build a network of company-owned locations illustrates our dedication to providing additional support to our clients and expanding our brand. As we continue to grow, we are always looking for A-grade players who will provide great service to our customers and who want to be part of a dynamic and growing industry. It will be real win for everyone working along with our network of experienced franchisees out there."

More About Paul Davis Restoration

 For more than 50 years, Paul Davis Restoration has restored residential and commercial properties damaged by fire, water, mold, storms and disasters. 

The experts at Paul Davis understand the complex process of recovering from property damage and provide complete services; there is no need for the expense and confusion of hiring multiple contractors. Paul Davis is a one-stop shop for disaster damage and restoration.

 Paul Davis Restoration has more than 375 independently owned franchises in the USA and Canada. The professionals at Paul Davis are certified in emergency restoration, reconstruction and remodeling. 

For further info go to Paul Davis Restoration


 

Contact Information is Enough

You have a database of franchise "leads" with names and email addresses.

And you can't get them to take your call or respond to all those emails you send.

It does not matter where you bought, got or borrowered these "leads" from.

What matters is connecting with them and getting a Franchise Sales appointment on their calendar.

How to Get the Franchise Sales Appointment - 3 Steps, 1 Clever LinkedIn Tip & 1 Warning

So here is what you do now.

1. Export your database of franchise leads to a spreadsheet, first name, last name & email address.

It does not matter whether you have 50 or 5000 leads. Just do it.

2. Next, you are going to take 10-15 franchise leads a day, every day until the end of time and invite them one-by-one to connect with you on LinkedIn.

But, there is a trick in doing this without having to look up the lead on LinkedIn.

This process to invite 10-15 franchise leads will take you 10 minutes or less to do.

And I am going to show you how to do it right now.

3. Linkedin Tip -Start on your LinkedIn homepage and click on My Network.

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A) On your My Network page click on More Options on the left side of the screen.

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B) Now select the invite by email option which is the envelope icon.

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C) Here's how you directly invite your franchise leads to connect with you on LinkedIn.

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D) LinkedIn will send you a New Connections email with a list of people you have connected with.

You want to start a conversation with them.

And the best way to start is by thanking them for connecting.

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E) Make connecting with your franchise leads from all your referral sources you are paying for must become part of your sales process and workflow.

You will get more Franchise Sales appointments by doing this and having conversations with your prospects in LinkedIn.

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Diagram #1. Tip Using their Contact Information Find & Connect with the Person on - LinkedIn - They are Not a Lead unless They Connect with You.-1.png

*Warning: do not upload large lists of franchise lead records and shortcut this by inviting too many people to connect with you all at once.*

It's important to do this one-by-one so you have time to start conversations and follow the steps without overwhelming yourself.

Besides great franchise sales professionals know that franchises are sold to one prospect at a time.

And they always start with a Franchise Sales appointment.

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If you would like to know more about Prospecting for Franchise Recruits by accessing the LinkedIn database, then just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Clients ask me all the time how important rankings are.

Franchise Times, Entrepreneur, Franchise Business Review among others, all publish several franchise ranking lists per year. Here's my response.

Everything positive you can show about your system is a plus, clearly. The important thing is to participate-answer emails from publications or entities that tell you you are being considered for this list or that.

You can forward to your PR people, but much of the information will likely have to come from your CFO.

As a PR firm for franchises, we keep a list "alarmed" for the most popular and (and this is important) the most credible rankings.

Four months before the list is published we remind clients to look for an email, form or link that they need to go to in order to be considered for inclusion on the said list.

We will also happily vet a request for legitimacy which you can ask your firm or PR person to do as well.

You can Google the list and publication in question yourself.

Then I recommend you do this below: not with every one but certainly when you have amassed as many as this Number One in Home Inspection franchise has.

Go ahead. Toot your horn, but putting out a press release for every list you are mentioned on minimizes the weight of the honor. Announce two-three awards or rankings at a time and soon you will become the SuperStar in your category like Pillar To Post!

PILLAR TO POST HOME INSPECTORS® RECEIVES TOP

RANKINGS FROM ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE IN SIX CATEGORIES IN 2016

They Will Raise Veterans Discount from 10% to 20% on Franchise Fees

(TAMPA, FLA.) -- Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has achieved the highest position in the Top Franchise for Veterans ranking in Entrepreneur Magazine for 2016. This prestigious honor is the sixth such ranking from the famed business publication for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The company ranked as follows in the magazine's January edition of the Franchise 500: #1 in their category of Home Inspection, Best of the Best, Fastest Growing Franchise, Top Home Based Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchises. In addition, the booming chain has already awarded 70 additional franchises since January of this year.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with this honor," said Dan Steward, President & CEO of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. "It says so much not only about how hard we've worked but how hard our franchisees have worked and maintained absolute integrity in their home inspections."

In addition, Pillar To Post ranks high in Franchise Business Review rankings. Franchise Business Review is a national franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction and franchise buyer experiences, examines the critical areas of a franchise system including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, financial opportunity, and more. Its survey results deliver the unbiased facts about the overall health of a franchise system directly from today's franchise owners.

Pillar To Post has been named by Franchise Business Review's rankings of Top 50 in Franchisee Satisfaction, Top 30 among Home Service Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchise for 2016.

"We have been doing so well and are so honored to be named among Entrepreneur's Top Franchises for Veterans," said Eric Steward, Marketing Manager for Pillar To Post. "The veterans who join our system end up as top performers. Our business model and structure and culture seem to be a perfect fit for those leaving the military. As a result, we have recently added an additional 10% discount on our franchise fees for veterans, going from a 10% discount to a 20% discount for them.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with over 550 franchisees, located in 48 states and nine Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com/

Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

Beyond excellent franchisee growth in 2015, Cincinnati-based Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year.

Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as one of the fastest-growing businesses in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States for the second year in a row.

Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 170th on its annual Franchise 500 list for 2015, moving up 15 spots from 2014, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises. Window Genie also placed 51st on Entrepreneur's top home based/ mobile franchises.

Franchise Business Review, a national franchisee satisfaction market research firm also placed Window Genie on its annual Top Franchises for Veteran's list. It is the only list of top franchises for veterans based on data from those who know best - the veterans who own them.

Window Genie's Founder and CEO Rik Nonelle said,

"This ranking is very important to us personally as we have a unique ability to give back to those who serve. We offer veterans additional territory at no cost when purchasing a franchise."

Nonelle continues, "These rankings are great but I most like achieving them for our franchisees, who are the most important part of our whole business structure."

Nonelle has made it HIS business to market to his franchisees, or, in other words, build internal programs that help them achieve great results. An example of one such program is an agreement made in April 2015 with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films.

window genie.jpgThe partnership provides Window Genie franchisees with the opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare, lowering utility bills. Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies.

In 2016, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans for more programs that benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle.

"This year we expanded our Your Holiday Lights program from three franchisees to 15 (this program is optional for those franchisees who wish to fill their winter months with an outdoor holiday lighting business) and continue to offer an incentive program for current owners who refer a new franchisee."

Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2016, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

"We have also been using the Franchise Navigator," said Nonelle. "I've learned the best thing I can give my existing franchisees are additional excellent franchisees coming aboard. We look for the same profile as my top performing franchisees. They deserve to have the brand continued to be bolstered by hard workers like themselves."

"The strength of your franchise system comes from the people who deliver your products or services. You could have the best business model and the best product or service, but if you sell your franchise or business opportunity to the wrong type of person you, they and the consumer will not receive what they expect from your brand," ​says Craig Slavin, Founder and President of Navigator System Solutions, owner of the Franchise Navigator.

Franchisors must focus on the human component part of growing their business. That means talent, skills, values and behavior! Create and "model" your high performing franchise owners. All inbound candidates should then be compared to this profile to determine if they are a good "fit" and can execute the franchise company's business model.

"A franchise sold to the wrong person is worse than not selling one at all," Nonelle agreed.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2016, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. This past year 15 new franchisees have joined the Window Genie system.

Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2016 in Florida, Arizona, New York and California.

LinkedIn will be changing the structure of groups in the next coming weeks.

(For the entire list of changes, please download the pdf: "New Group Features")

This article will help you understand some of the changes that we will have to make in order to accommodate LinkedIn.

These changes are substantial and your input would be useful.

Your experience in the the groups is going to change radically.

You can ask us questions by commenting on this article or in the group.

Here are the first (2) changes to discuss:

1. Content Moderation

Timeliness and high engagement go hand-in-hand and are key to a successful group.

To ensure groups are effective as timely conversation forums, conversations will now be posted instantly to a group without the need for manager approval.

Group owners, managers, and moderators can still remove off-topic conversations and place members in moderation.

Other group members can also flag inappropriate comments and conversations after they've been posted.

Learn more about best practices for contributing to Groups conversations.

2. Removal of Promotions Tab

General member feedback indicates that promotional content in LinkedIn Groups isn't a valuable experience, as it can quickly lead to spam.

In an effort to focus on quality conversations, we've removed the Promotions tab.

Any new promotional posts will go to the moderation queue for the owners, managers, and moderators to approve.

Learn more about the moderation process for groups.

This present us with a serious problem.

The Promotions tab allowed us to be extremely firm in our rule about not starting a Discussion by using naked link to someone else's blog or your own article even if it might be of interest to the group, while at the same time making such material available for members who are interested. Those articles could be found in promotions.

Now that option is not available to us.

Joe and I have several ideas on the matter, but we would also like to hear from you.

Thanks.

Remember the last time you sat for an hour, drinking a hot latte, in one of the few coveted armchairs at the local cafe, scanning your friends' updates on Facebook, liking pictures on Instagram, and debating with Twitter regulars about the upcoming election?

Yeah, me either...

Like you, I have work to do.

As business people we are constantly faced with an endless list of tasks ranging from urgent to if-I-have-time, and unfortunately social media marketing for our own business seems often to fall somewhere at the bottom of the list.

The truth is, engaging on social media is more than the picture painted above. While a few minutes of personal time is important, for a business person who's responsible for company social media activity, engaging a captive audience on any social media platform can make a big impact on the bottom line.

The question is, "How can I make time to squeeze this task in as a priority each week, when I can barely find a moment to order the latte?"

Here are some of the tricks we recommend:

  1. Determine which platforms are used most often by your target market, and focus on those initially. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious first choices. There are more than 1.49 billion users participating monthly on Facebook and 316 million on Twitter - chances are your audience can be found here.

So start here. Trying to use every single social platform is insane and will take up far too much of your precious time and energy. If you feel you have a large audience on a third platform, include it. For example, as an accountant you may want to make use of LinkedIn; as a food blogger, definitely get on Pinterest, and so on.

  1. I'm not reinventing the wheel with this one: pick a time and commit to it each week. The reason you continue to receive this advice is because it actually works. Schedule time for it in your calendar. Schedule a reminder that it must be done for the day before, if you have to. This is usually more difficult at the beginning, but you'll develop a routine. It would also be wise to schedule 5 minutes each day to simply check for notifications. If you are using your phone for this, check while you are standing in line for that latte... multitasking at its finest!
  2. Create a running document of links, articles and ideas that you think would benefit your audience, and refer to it as you post. You won't believe how much content you can come up with in just 20 minutes of focused searching. Once you get on a roll, you'll have more than enough to keep your feeds relevant and engaging. You'll soon learn what websites you find most useful and eventually knock your time searching down to 15 minutes, I promise. Be careful though, it is easy to be distracted... FOCUS!
  3. Learn how to use Hootsuite (or any other scheduling tool) and then actually use it. I have friends who often tell me that Hootsuite isn't for them as they are just "one little business." The truth is that Hootsuite can benefit any business, from the solopreneur to the large, international franchise. You can schedule your posts months in advance if necessary - affording you the ability to sit down, plan and follow-through all at once when you are not otherwise running your business. It's hard to post the lunch specials on 3 or more platforms when you are preparing said lunch special. Plan your weekly specials, create and schedule your posts, then welcome your hungry followers with a stress-free smile.
  4. Finally, share the responsibility. Not everyone can take over the world, latte in hand, and post about it on social media all at the same time. You may need minions (just kidding...). Allow your staff time to support your online efforts. Consider teaching select staff to use Hootsuite, and provide them with the content and time to do the scheduling. Ask for their input and any pictures and articles that they think could be useful. Offer incentives for their online involvement: liking, re-tweeting, sharing, etc.

When you feel like cancelling your scheduled social media time, remind yourself that involving your business in social media needs to be a priority. Your audience, customers and potential clients are already online, engaged in a conversation (perhaps with your competitors) that you need to be a part of.

Taking an hour or so each week will make a difference. Make the most of that hour...then reward yourself with that latte!

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

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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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.

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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]

Recently I was helping some friends get their social media accounts set up for their new coffee shop.

A local business like a coffee shop is not going to get a lot of value from many techniques used by content and inbound marketers.

Their new coffee shop, Café Love in Olympia, Washington, is not going to generate customers with a blog. (Well, they could generate customers with a blog but it would need to be special and that would not be the first thing I would suggest.)

Café Love will benefit from a social media presence and getting found on internet searches.

As I was working with Vanessa and Marty I thought it would be good to have a quick list of the accounts that should be set up.

This list would be great for any business but especially for location based businesses that depend on local traffic and people actually coming into their business.

This could include any type of restaurant, or business in the food and beverage industry; services such as barbers and beauty solons; automobile services, pet services, grooming and supplies; dancing schools and music stores; any type of brick and mortar stores; private businesses; franchise businesses; government offices and services; charity and non-profit services; and medical and health services.

The exact mix of accounts and what works best for you and your customers may vary a bit but this is where I would start.

Remember to experiment, see what works best and to try new things.

1. Facebook

With Facebook practically ubiquitous in North America it would be silly to ignore this. Remember to set up a personal account first then set up a business page. Once that is done you can invite others to help you administer the page. A few things to be sure to do:

  • Pick the correct category for your business
  • Set up your address so you show up on the map location
  • Put in your contact information
  • Learn about setting up Check-in Deals
  • Create and promote events
  • Adds can be targeted to your locations and to your customer profile
  • Update with photos of your space, products and events

2. Twitter

You can set up a Twitter account for your business and use it to promote your business, sales and events and connect with your customers and fans. Twitter may not be for every local business but there are a number of things you can do to make it more effective:

  • Follow and promote other local businesses
  • In Twitter Search use the Advanced Search to find people and business in "places" near you
  • Act like a person people would want to do business with, not an advertising broadcaster
  • Tweet about specials and coupons featured on your other accounts like Facebook and Foursqure
  • Send photos of events, regular customers and products

3. Foursquare

It is easy and free to set up Foursqure for business and Foursqure keeps track of your fans and check-ins for you.

  • Make sure the address is correct so you show up on maps and searches
  • Reward the mayor and frequent customers
  • Set up check-in specials
  • Post new images and photos
  • Connect to your other social media accounts
  • Foursqure Badges are connected to certain activities and businesses and are half the fun. What badges can your customers earn and how you can you make it fun?

4. Myspace

The obituaries for myspace have been written but I wouldn't nail the coffin shut yet because it is reinventing itself as the social media location for bands and entertainers. If your location business features live bands and entertainers then set up a Myspace account and connect and promote the bands, singers, comedians and dancers who will perform at your business.

5. Google+ and Google Locations

I've written that Google Places is now Google+ Local and published an eBook on the importance of Claiming Your Google Places. Google is such a big player now that it is important for any location based business to set up a Google+ Business Page and to claim their Google Places. Not only will this help you get found on Google searches you will show up on searches for Google Maps. This is essential especially when people do searches on their smart phones and that is exactly where you want to show up, when people are out looking for your services or product. A few things you should be sure to do:

  • Put in your contact information
  • List your hours of operation
  • Put a link to your menu or web site
  • Follow statistics about views for your listing
  • Use offers and coupons
  • Share updates about events, specials and more

6. Google Express Ads

In a recent blog I wrote that Google AdWords Express was a great solution for small business marketing. If you have thought about Pay-Per-Click ads but were intimidated by setting up Google AdWords or you do not have a website then this may be a great solution. This is specifically designed for small, location based businesses and is aimed at walk-in customers. It is worth checking out. If you need help we have a free Google Adwords consultation.

7. Yelp

Yelp is the other big location search engine and it is defiantly worth setting up an account and putting in your business' location and information. Yelp is famous for its reviews and this is something you want to be aware of and to follow.

8. Punchcard

I do not often push paid solutions but punchard is one that I have recently looked into that I like. It is a loyalty punch card system optimized for mobile applications. Your customers take a photo of their receipt and can redeem coupons and specials from you along the lines of buy 10 lattes and get the 11th latte free. As the business you get an amazing amount of information from your customers who check in so that you can tailor specials, coupons and promotions directly to the customer. For example set up specials for the customer who loves muffins, only comes in on Friday or never seems to spend more the $5. It is worth a look if rewarding loyal customers is important to you.

Another paid solution that I do not have a lot of experience with but I know others who swear by it is Groupon and similar coupon services.

9. Local Listings

There are a number of other places your business can be listed depending upon your location. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, local newspapers or your city's official website. There is often a place to list local businesses. Depending on what is going on locally there may be a website devoted to local businesses or certain types of business such as restaurants or nightclubs. Search for businesses similar to yours and see where they are listed. Most of these sites will at least have a free listing and many will have enhanced services for a fee. What is important to you will determine what will be the best option.

10. Keep Track and Reward

Remember to keep track of what is bringing customers in. With Foursqure and Facebook you will be able to see who checks in but ask your customers what they are doing and how they found out about you. Run different specials and coupons on different sites and see what generates business. Remember to reward your customers who connect with you on social media and promote your business. If a customer is telling others about you, that is free advertising so thank them from time to time.

What have I left off the list that you think is good for local advertising and social media promotion? Tell us what you are doing in the comments below. If you are a small or local business we can give you a free social media marketing evaluation. Let us know how we can help.

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My oldest child recently started high school, and I've been amazed by the use of social media techniques in the classroom. The teachers have really embraced some aspects of this and incorporate it nicely into the classroom. However, she has one teacher in particular that has impressed me in this area.

I knew I would like him when I attended the open house night. As parents took their seats, we were handed an informational sheet about his classroom, along with his contact information and other pertinent "need to know" items.

What I immediately noticed was that, next to his email address and the parent access site's URL, he provided a QR code that links to the information.

While many parents weren't familiar with QR codes, he took a moment to explain how they work and went on to say that he did this because he knows parents are busy and he thought that scanning a QR code to send an email would be more efficient.

As he explained how his classroom was run, I was intrigued by his methodology, which I later learned was referred to as 'flipping' the classroom.

Traditionally, teachers spend class time lecturing and then assigning homework to be turned in the following day.

This teacher does it quite the opposite. He has a YouTube channel dedicated to his class, and students are assigned to listen to a lecture (or screen cast, as he calls it), and then the following day in class he will give the "homework", allowing students to do it during class.

He also gives pop quizzes on the screen cast from the night before to ensure students are watching. He uses class time to answer questions, offer clarification on points students are having difficulty with, and so forth.

At first I wasn't so sure about this "new" methodology, but as the quarter has progressed both me and my daughter have come to love it.

First, it gives her time to pause the lecture to take notes more efficiently, rewind parts she doesn't understand, and make a list of questions to ask the teacher the following day. She also saw the value in this right before the first big exam - she was able to re-listen to any of the screen casts that she needed to, at her convenience and pace.

Second, they're also dedicated an area of the website where a chat session opens up the night before a big exam so students can ask questions, help each other, and offer support if they choose to. When I peeked in the chat session the night before my daughter's first exam, I noted that it was quite active, with many students involved.

I love all things social media, and now I am seeing the effects of it in the school environment.

Teachers are finding new and unique ways to incorporate social media elements into the learning process, and for children who have grown up with technology, I think it is largely beneficial. My youngest is nine years old - I will be interested to see what his high school experience will look like.

Even though it's only five years away, I think it will look quite different from my oldest child's.

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There are some common myths that inbound marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising like Google AdWords' paid search are mutually exclusive. You do one or the other and if you are a proponent of one you are against the other.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

They each play a specific role and can even support each other. Many of the concepts and techniques are the same but the reasons to use one strategy over the other may be different and the results may be different.

Let's take a look at some of the differences.

Getting Found on Search Results

Both will get your website found on searches but the way they do it will be different.

    • Inbound: Working with keywords you build content such as blogs and optimize your on-page SEO to help your website turn up on search results. Where you turn up in the results depends upon your content and the competition for the keywords.
    • Google AdWords: Working with keywords you bid to have an ad placed on Google's search results page. This is also competitive and exactly where your ad shows up depends on a number of factors including the competition for the keyword and your budget. With a properly setup campaign your ad will show up on the first page of search results. Remember, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, not for it to show up in a search.

Time vs. Money

There are no silver bullets in marketing and there is a cost no matter what you do.

    • Inbound: Getting on the first page of search results is not an overnight process. It could take months of blogging and promotion before your website ranks in the top 10 results for a particular keyword in a Google search. The good thing is once your page ranks high on Google Search it will stay there a long time. Success tends to last with inbound marketing.
    • Google AdWords: Success is an overnight process. As soon as you start a successful campaign you ads will turn up on searches and you will start to get clicks. As soon as you stop the ads the clicks will stop. There is no long lasting benefit to doing a PPC campaign.

Similarities

This is an area where there are a lot of similarities between Google AdWords PPC campaigns and inbound marketing. For both you need:

    • Keywords: Both PPC and inbound marketing are based on your keyword strategy. These are the words your potential customers will search to find your website. It is important to understand what those words are, how often people search for the words and how competitive the words are. For inbound marketing you build content around the keywords and for PPC you bid on the keywords.
    • Clear Call-to-Action: Whether it is in an ad, in your blog or in a tweet you need to have a call-to-action that induces your potential customer to visit your website.
    • Landing Page: If someone clicks a PPC ad or a link in a search result they need to land on a page that makes sense. If the ad says "Buy Red Tennis Shoes" the landing page better have red tennis shoes you can buy. If the link says "15 Little-Known Internet Marketing Facts You Need to Know" there better be 15 facts there.

Deciding on whether you do an inbound marketing campaign or a PPC AdWords Campaign depends on your website, customers, budget and time. For information on setting up a Google AdWords campaign check out HubSpot's A Simple Guide for Setting Up Your First Google AdWords Campaign or my blog on 10 Google AdWords Mistakes

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In today's economy, it's more important than ever to understand the true value of your customers' business and how to retain business-at-risk before it's too late.

But unless you're talking to all of your franchisees' customers on a regular basis, how can you proactively solve a problem before you lose a customer's business - or before a scalding comment shows up on Facebook, Twitter or one of hundreds of review sites? And how do you leverage your customers' positive feedback for word-of-mouth recommendations across all of your social media platforms?

"The days of 'hiding' unhappy customers are over," says Golde, an expert in the integration of social media and customer feedback. "With social media and review sites, everyone is a potential critic or advocate for your business. The only way to know the difference is to learn efficient and actionable methods for listening to your customers."

Paul Segreto states: "Franchise owners recognize that they need to capitalize on social media and integrated, actionable customer feedback. We're thrilled to have Mindy, one of the leading experts in this niche topic, walk us through the latest in optimizing customer loyalty and how to achieve measurable results."

Golde adds, "A customer feedback management system used to be a 'nice-to-have.' Today it is mission critical. The best tools keep you ahead of both the competition and technology such as social media and text analytics. When it all works together, it can make the difference between keeping a customer and losing him to the competition."

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Social media at its best is an experience that is highly interactive and lots of fun. The question for businesses is: how do we create that experience for our audiences?

Sometimes great content isn't enough. Sometimes the answer is simply to play. By "gamifying" the social media experience, you create a playful online environment in which your audience will want to participate. Note: even more "serious" B2B companies can achieve great results through gamification.

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

1. Show it - From caption contests to selfie uploads, utilizing images as part of the game can be highly effective. When those images also involve interaction with your products/services (eating your food, shopping at your store, demonstrating your software in action), then your audience is doing your marketing for you.

2. Think it - Challenge your audience with riddles, brain teasers, puzzles that they just can't resist solving.

3. Stretch it - Games with multiple parts prompt ongoing engagement. Whether moving through levels or seeking treasures in scavenger hunts, there's something to be said for making the experience last.

4. Work it - Your employees can be your greatest advocates. Give them incentives to engage, and make it worth their time.

Don't forget to identify a reward that will create an additional incentive for participation. Rewards can be physical (gift cards, products, etc.) or virtual (points, badges), whatever will drive your audience most.

Work and play don't have to be mutually exclusive. Throw a little fun into your social media mix, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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Frances Leary outlines three questions that will help businesses determine what social media platforms they should be using to propel business growth.

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Networking can be great or it can totally suck.

I think everyone's viewed it through both lenses before. Almost all of us business owners have attended formal networking events where the only thing you were thinking was, "what the hell am I doing here". The other times, we've left events where we were excited at the possibilities of new leads and potential business partnerships. It can be hit or miss.

I wrote a previous article on why networking events are worthless. I'm not here to pee on everyone's networking parade, nor am I against networking......I attend formal and non-formal events almost every week. What I'm saying is that alot of the time, we're not doing it effectively. Either we approach networking the wrong way or we are networking with the wrong people.

Below are 5 times that you're wasting your time networking, at least in my opinion.

1. You network because you're scared of selling

Everyone hates cold calling. Heck, most of us hate warm calling. If only people would just randomly hand us money and beg us to sign a long term contract, life would be grand. If you're not into selling (you better go find someone who is), networking can be a safe haven of soft talk and non-intimidating interactions with "friends". That's alot easier then walking into a business and trying to pitch your value to a skeptical business owner. While networking is good, don't use it as an excuse not to actively go out and sell to potential customers.

2. You network because it's comfortable

Just like above, don't use networking as an excuse to not do the things you really know you should be doing. At many networking events, most of the people are looking to get business, they aren't necessarily seeking to buy anything. Alot of sellers and not enough buyers. They may not be your target market, you're ideal customer is at work, at there business.....probably listening to a pitch from one of your competitors while you're having tea and strumpets with other business owners just like you, "brainstorming" on how to find your ideal customer. Networking is great, just don't use it as a crutch.

3. You spend all of your time networking

Are you a professional networker? If your business is booming, that's awesome, keep at it. If after several months, there's nothing, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your marketing plan. Networking is the offline version of Social Media, it can be highly effective, but can also be a huge time suck if left unchecked. Just like in your personal life, make sure you have balance in your business life. Networking can be fun if you meet the right bunch of people, but don't let it distract you from working on your business.

4. You networking isn't really networking

I've attended networking events where most of the conversations revolved around shopping, family, vacations.....everything except business. If you attend networking events like this, don't fool yourself into thinking your networking for your business, you're socializing with friends. People will argue that this is networking......you're building friendships and relationships. If your marketing plan is to get business by osmosis, then this type of socializing is great.....it's just not effective.

5. Your ideal clients aren't networking- They're At work

Be honest about this one. Are the people you're networking with fit your ideal customer profile, or are they like you, looking to drum up more business? Most of our ideal clients are too busy to network, they are running businesses and have little time to spend on a Tuesday afternoon at the local cafe. While your networking circle may be able to refer you to your ideal client, you still need to go to the source and get them yourself if you want control over your business.

How Effective Is Your Networking?

Networking should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, its not a marketing strategy in of itself. It also shouldn't replace a sales strategy for your business. Put it this way, the guy who walks up to a girl and asks for a date will get rejected several times.....but will eventually land a date. The guy who's afraid to ask for a date will hang around groups of friends.....hoping one of those cute girls will basically "ask him out" so he doesn't have to. Sometimes it works, but you could be waiting a very long time to get asked out.

Will You Use iBeacon?

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Less than two years have passed since Apple first launched iBeacons in 254 stores across the country.

In the past two years, retailers have used iBeacons to find out who is shopping at their stores and to reach out to those customers with real-time information on purchases.

Available for Apple devices iOS 7 and above, iBeacon uses a Bluetooth connection.

Here are a few ways that iBeacons are revolutionizing retail.

1. Bringing Local Storefronts Online

In an age where online purchases often overtake in-store sales, iBeacons allow brick-and-mortar stores to come online and take their place in the clouds. That means greater online presence and greater sales.

2. Instant Market Research

By making careful use of data collected through iBeacon, it is possible for businesses to know here and now how many people, and what kinds of people, are frequenting their shop. Of course, like any other kind of market research, this data requires careful analysis.

3. Connect With Customers Now

On a fun note, did you know the Italian Zoo has recently developed an iBeacon enabled app which allows users to receive moment-by-moment information on the animals closest to them? While iBeacon does not support push notifications directly, retailers are using data collected from to fuel mobile apps and connect with customers, or prospective customers, now, in real time.

4. Attendee Tracking

As part of running your business, you doubtless attend the occasional business conference. iBeacon gives conference organizers an interesting way to get minute-by-minute data on large groups of people, so they know what topics draw the most attendees, and where attendees are going. This data, in turn, will continue to shape the face of retail.

5. A New, Competitive Market

iBeacons and other location services are a reality in today's world, and as with any other new development, competition is stiff. Companies benefit from this data and other companies benefit from being the ones to provide it. It will be interesting to see how this market develops in the next few years.

Are you utilizing iBeacons in your business? Do you have any fun stories to share? Let us know in the comments.

The post Five Ways iBeacons Are Revolutionizing Retail appeared first on Predict and Prevent Business Failure.

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I continue to be amazed by the number of sales people who feel that LinkedIn doesn't provide any value to them.

Yet, these same people spend countless hours on Facebook telling people what they ate for breakfast, are leaving for work, or entering YouTube links. How is that a benefit to your bank account?

My feelings about LinkedIn are not theoretical and I'm not a paid advertiser of it. I am a beneficiary of this social media/marketing platform. I've personally used LinkedIn to build three businesses with this website as a lead source.

Recently, I spoke to a skeptical sales team about LinkedIn and the opportunity it provides.

Two minutes before I was going to demonstrate how to use this medium, I received an email from the president of a company interested in hiring me for sales management consulting who had found me through an article I published on LinkedIn. Rather than start the LinkedIn discussion with a demo of the technology, I put the email up on the screen and the skepticism evaporated.

LinkedIn provides sales people with a unique lead generation opportunity. However, the operative word is unique which means that the approach needs to be geared toward this medium. Imagine having prospects coming to you rather than you chasing them. It can be done if you have the right social media strategy when using this tool. This is marketing's job, right? Wrong! It is a co-shared responsibility. They have the global responsibility for positioning your company, but there is a role for sales people to play as well.
For starters, you need to take the approach that you are going to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry...an expert. Remember, as a sales person, you know more about your solutions than your prospective clients regardless of their titles. You track industry movement and trends...much more than the users of your products. This approach sets you on your mission of providing value with the goal of positioning yourself as an expert in your space. This will lead people to want to be associated with (or linked) to you.

The first step is to review your profile page on LinkedIn. What message is conveyed to someone who is reviewing your profile? This is where many sales people get stuck. They try to use their LinkedIn profile for multiple purposes...network with friends (save that for Facebook), leave the door open for a job search, and business development. That approach doesn't work as there is no clear message as to why you are on LinkedIn or what you seek to accomplish.

If your plan is to use LinkedIn for lead generation or business development, your approach should be linear. Your profile and recommendations should clearly position your role in your industry. Since you are not using LinkedIn, in this instance, for a job search, there is no reason to list jobs that don't reinforce your expertise. Provide only the information that helps paint the picture for the impression you want profile visitors to have of you.

When writing your bio, don't shoot for length...aim for focus. A one-paragraph bio that positions you in your industry as an expert is the goal. In this instance, people don't care about your personal information. If you aren't sure your bio conveys the desired message, have your peers read it and ask what message they derive from it.

Testimonials are very important. Your company probably has plenty of references for its product, service, or technology offering. However, your LinkedIn testimonials should be about you. What value do your clients receive by working with you? How do you support their account? Invite those whom you have earned the right to request a testimonial about their experience in working with you. The goal is not to get them to write that you are a sweetheart, but rather the results they received from working with you.

Remember, your profile serves as the foundation for everything else you will do on LinkedIn. All roads lead back to this page.
With your profile developed, the next step is to join groups. Again, the goal is to be linear. As a free member on LinkedIn, you can join up to 50 groups. It may seem like a lot, but you'll be surprised how quickly you use them. Using the search function at the top of the page on LinkedIn, search for groups using keywords that will show where your target clients are. If you are in employment screening, you may want to search on security, security professionals, small business, human resources, human resources professionals, etc.

The search will return a list of groups shown in order of number of members with the largest groups shown first. Join the largest ones, right? Nope! How can you be visible with 50,000 members? You'll get lost.

Ideally, join groups that have between 1,000 and 5,000 members. At that size, the group has enough mass to justify your time investment, but is not so large that you can't make yourself visible.

Once you are accepted into the group, there are a number of things you can do. Remember, your mission is to provide value first, not seeking to get buyers. Review the active discussions and participate in those where you can provide key insight. Resist the temptation to hawk your product here. Value first! (A suggestion...compose your responses using Word so you can spell/grammar check what you have written. LinkedIn does not have that functionality.)

You can also create discussions in groups. Don't create discussions that directly map back to the sale of your product. The group members will blast you for that. Use this opportunity to get key insight into the challenges that your buyers are experiencing. If you sell for a risk mitigation firm, you could create a discussion around the H1N1 pandemic and how organizations are handling this issue.

When people participate in discussions, their photo and link to their profile page are provided next to their comments. (Now, you see why your profile page is so important.) When readers are intrigued by comments, they research the author. When you are engaged in online discussions in a group, you can invite the member into your LinkedIn network. (Don't use the LinkedIn invite template...craft your own message.)

Once the members are in your network, you have a number of ways you can communicate with them. Remember, focus on value in every interaction. Want to learn more secrets to using LinkedIn for lead generation, get my FREE LinkedIn tipsheet. (Note. Before embarking on this journey, be sure to review your company's social media policy and/or check with your manager for approval.)

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Social media can snowball and make things worse if your social media responses are automated

Take the case of a woman who was killed in a car accident in 2010. A family member recently wrote a blog post talking about the accident and going on to illustrate how Progressive failed to help them, and explains that not only did they not honor his sister's policy, but when the case went to court, Progressive lawyers defended the man who killed his sister.

This, of course, traveled like wildfire across the internet, and people naturally started flocking to Progressive's social media sites. Here is where things got tricky....

On Twitter, they tried to do the right thing. They posted a comment that read:

"This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they've had to endure.

We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.

Again, this is a tragic situation, and we're sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through."

So far, so good, except that it went over the 140 character limit so the message was shortened. That's still not awful in the grand scheme of things.

What happened next though inflamed already upset people - every time a Twitter user commented on the company's Twitter page, they sent the same message, over and over again.

What started out as a seemingly sincere comment now became automated and spam-like, which angered people even more.

Over on their Facebook page, the comments piled up. Thanks to the new timeline, these comments don't crowd a company's wall like they once did, but they are still visible and easy to access. I have reviewed their page and do not see any reference to this issue anywhere; in fact, they fell silent on the 13th, which is the same day the blog post was written.

It is possible they stopped their social media initiatives once they attempted to address the situation on Twitter and it didn't go so well. It's not stopping people from commenting though, and fans who were unaware of this recent development are now fully aware and potentially adding to the conversation.

Social media is difficult, especially in a crisis situation. Unfortunately, that is the time that you have to be the most careful and do the right thing since you are under a virtual microscope. It will be interesting to see how Progressive bounces back from this from a social media perspective; it's a good lesson to learn though.

Social media needs to be genuine and not automated - sincerity can go a long way, but it needs to be genuine and transparent.

Every company needs to use these real-life examples as a talking point within their company and have a concrete social media plan for this type of situation.

It will happen to every company, on some level, at one time or another, and it's best to be prepared.

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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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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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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!

During the month of February 2013, Burger King's Twitter account was hacked; in what appeared to be amusing to the outside world, it was no laughing matter to those handling Burger King's social media programs at the time.

The first noticeable change was the cover page: gone was the Burger King logo and slogan, which was replaced by "news" that the company was sold to McDonald's:

BK-cover.jpg

It was a short lived flurry of tweets, some of which were obscene and unkind:

BKH2.jpg

Burger King's competitors also had some words of support for the company:

McDonald's tweeted,

"We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking."

"My real life nightmare is playing out"

wrote Wendy's social media worker Amy Rose Brown.

It's interesting that Twitter was the only compromised account for the company; its Facebook account remained unharmed.

Clearly the company continually monitors its social media and was quickly able to identify the issue and resolve it before things got too out of hand.

Crisis averted, but it's a good lesson on the importance of monitoring social media sites on a continual basis - hackers can easily create havoc quickly!

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Contrary to popular thinking, content is not king and cold calling is not dead.

Some marketers have begun to think if they do a great job at B2B social media, then qualified prospects will rain in. Grizzled sales veterans contend it's still all about building personal relationships.

The fact is, building and nurturing a business-to-business pipeline requires a delicate balance of both new social media approaches and old school prospecting.

Most companies don't get "invited to the party" because prospects don't even know you exist. While the search engine optimization (SEO) value of your content can generate leads, you will grow old waiting for it to fuel a solid pipeline.

You need to develop and qualify a prospect list and reach out to them with a thought-provoking combination of traditional mail, email and phone calls. Occasionally you will get lucky and reach a prospect with an immediate need.

But more often, if there is a glimmer of interest, the prospect becomes aware of you and will begin to pay attention to your content - either passively as you email it to them, or actively following you on Twitter, LinkedIn or your blog.

And so begins the nurturing process. When they click through an email or retweet a post, your sales team takes notice.

They happen to leave messages with prospects about the very topic they expressed interest in. The dance continues until you raise their level of interest and interaction or you get a definite "no."

Any shred of new information, whether it's a development in their company or a manner in which they respond, informs your next move.

If there is no response, back them off to a maintenance level of contact and move on to another manageable wave on your list.

There is no substitute for old school prospecting.

But it is a wasted effort today if it's not supported by rich content. That's where social media marketing champions are exactly right - B2B prospects will do their homework.

(They do want to feel like connecting with you was their idea. That's fine, we won't tell them differently!)

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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 this day and age, 95% of customers turn to the Internet to quickly find products and services -- and that includes finding a local business provides them. The importance of having a website for your brand franchise is a no-brainer, but should local franchisees have a website, too?

One of the great things about franchises is they have national brand recognition and local identities, so they can connect with their individual communities while also staying at the forefront of customers' thoughts. However, the challenge becomes defining the local identity of each franchisees location all within the established brand.

When local franchisees plan to market themselves online, they may turn to practices that the franchisor needs to oversee so there are no mixed brand messages in the market. What I'm referring to is franchisees having their own website, separate from the established franchise website. Not only will this cause customer confusion over which site is the main one, but it will cause customers to lose trust in the franchise as a whole. After all, 73% of customers lose trust in a brand when there is incorrect listing information on the Internet.

The danger zone

While it may seem like a good idea for franchisees to have their own website -- a place for local customers to quickly find them -- it will spread the overall brand thinly across the web and franchisors will lose control of managing their online reputation.

If each franchisee maintains their own website, each will both look different and present different messages vs. what the franchise as a brand is promoting. Let's use Planet Fitness as an example. They promote their gyms as "judgement-free" zones, a selling point to those who are intimidated by the avid gym-goer. If every Planet Fitness location put out their own website, the core message would get lost. Even simple typos such as, "judgement-free zoo," has the possibility to damage the brand, franchisor and franchisee across the web.

In addition to inconsistent and incorrect messaging, individually-maintained franchisee sites will cause the main franchise website to get lost in the crowd and confuse the customer. For example, there may be a franchisee that is killing it with their SEO, so much so that they overshadow other franchisees (and possibly locations closer to a searcher). The situation becomes more complicated franchisees run Ad Word campaigns because they will entering into a bidding-war for the same keyword -- a waste of valuable marketing dollars.

The easiest and simplest plan is to eliminate local websites and focus on the main website with a local approach.

Out of danger + into the community

Keeping your brand message consistent can be as easy as 1-2-3 when it comes to local marketing.

Brand-Consistency.png

1. Provide an online marketing strategy

Whether you want to give your franchisees some freedom in their marketing, or lay out the entire strategy for them, it all starts with a structure. Share the marketing guidelines, clearly delegate responsibilities and provide them with the materials and information they need to be successful.

A great place to start is with individual location listing pages on the main franchise website. By providing each franchisee with a place to house their NAP (name, address, phone), you will help establish SEO that each location can contribute to.

2. Distribute brand guidelines

In addition to providing a marketing strategy, distribute brand guidelines that each franchisee should follow in order to eliminate confusion about the ultimate franchise goal (like the one mentioned with Planet Fitness).

A consistent message across the franchisees creates a strong base for each location to build their local marketing on.

The brand guidelines should cover how the slogan and logo can be used and establish the voice and tone for the franchise as a whole.

3. Maintain consistent support

To keep the brand strong across all locations, you should consistently share the brand message and always provide answers to franchisees who have questions. By providing support, you will be able to track the who may not be complying with the guidelines -- and reach out to them and provide alternatives in order to maintain the brand and prevent damage.

A small thing, such as a separate franchisee website, can start brand damage and lead to bigger issues across the franchise. By evaluating your own franchise website (and the local location pages you provide to your franchisees), you can present a consistent brand message nationally and locally, all while growing your online customer base.

Many franchisors don't have systems in place that enable their franchisees to control their own local online marketing activities.

LocalVox provides franchises from all industries -- from furniture retailers to grocery stores -- with software that lets franchisees contribute to their local online marketing and still allows the franchisor to monitor franchisee activities and control larger brand-building campaigns.

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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]

For more information on how we can help your franchise, please contact us and we would be happy to give you a demo.

The post Prevent Brand Damage With a Complete Franchise Website appeared first on LocalVox.

If you are a small business owner or a self-employed professional, and you are reading this post, then you've heard (probably numerous times over) that you should be including social media in some way in your marketing. For some of you, you are also hearing that social media should be used in your customer relations.

But beyond this vague knowledge, when it comes to the implementation, many of you are getting it wrong, and you may not realize just how much your social media efforts are actually cutting in to your income when they supposedly should be increasing it.

A Few Words About Where I am Coming From...

The idea for this post has actually been percolating for some time. It all started with a recent interview I did about content marketing for small businesses working with limited resources. That got the wheels spinning. Then, I wrote a post a few weeks back about why some small businesses should not actively market themselves on location-based social media platforms. Finally, over the past week, I've been mulling over a book put together by Danny Iny over at Firepole Marketing called, Engagement from Scratch which offers a ton of insight about how business owners can build a loyal and engaged online audience (a big shout out to Ti Roberts who alerted me to this great free resource.)

I want to start off by saying that I have nothing against social media for business owners. On the contrary, I fully believe that with the right approach, businesses can use various social media platforms to increase sales, improve customer experience, and gain immensely valuable market feedback.

What I do have a problem with is the way these platforms are being thrown at small business owners as the holy grail of accomplishing all the things just mentioned above. And a holy grail social media is not.

There's a great deal of social media hype out there- a lot of it baseless. I believe that many social media evangelists are playing on the vulnerabilities that small businesses tend to have, such as limited resources, limited experience, and limited reach.

There is also a physiological component here: many small business owners and self employed professionals don't fully recognize the value that they have to offer their customers and thus are looking for ways to compensate, to add some extra appeal to their offerings. Social media savvy has somehow become this elusive stamp of competence and quality.

The result is that there is a literal movement of businesses and individuals who are going through a lot of hoops, spending a great deal of time and money, and many are technically making all the "right" moves on social media, yet they ultimately end up unsuccessful. For all the success stories out there, we just can't push under the rug the thousands and thousands of individuals and small businesses and even big businesses, that were unsuccessful in their social media campaigns- regardless of the platform.

Where are they going wrong? The vast majority of the time, I've found that it's a matter of perspective.

Social media at its core is a medium of communication and information sharing. It canenhance what already exists to build something greater, much like binoculars or a microscope can enhance your sight- it can extend your reach, improve your customer response time and effectiveness, help you learn about your customers, and market trends. But we have to get away from this Social Media God complex. Social media alone cannot do all these things and especially not for free. If you're blind, don't bother looking through a pair of binoculars...

It boggles my mind how this message can still be promoted.

To the extent that business use these platforms to merely amplify their message and reach, to the extent that they truly understand what works and what doesn't in terms of marketing in our Internet-based world, and to the extent that they truly try to connect to their customers, to address the actual flesh and blood people behind those social media accounts, online purchases, and survey responses, to that extent they will be successful.

It doesn't matter which platforms are trending, what matters is how the actual business is able to use that platform to connect to current and potential customers. Expect that some social media platforms will work, others not. It's highly individual. It has to do with not only the kind of business and industry involved, but also the market demographics as well as the unique personalities, skills, and available resources of the people who own and work in the business. It's like trying to use binoculars when you should be using a microscope or at least a magnifying glass, and then wondering why you can't see anything.

Realize that the rules of doing business have stayed the same even as they have changed. What I mean is that the fundamentals of marketing, networking, building customer loyalty, etc. These still exist, and they will always exist. All that has really changed is that we now have tools to enhance and target our message, to extend our services, and connect with others.

Once you as a small business owner or self employed professional understand this, you'll begin to realize that customer loyalty hasn't died, for example. The fundamental rules still hold. The goal remains to build a real following of people who like what you have to offer, who feel in some way connected to your brand, and who will want (by themselves) to further that connection through repeat purchases. This has been happening way before the days of the Internet and social media. Think: Coca Cola and Nike.

What has changed is that there's a lot more noise, customers are spending a significant amount of their time online (as opposed to off-line) doing a variety of tasks; social circles have expanded in ways never before possible; many barriers have come down between businesses and customers, between peers, between those who are formally educated and those who are not; and the pace of life has quickened.

You have to adapt your marketing and customer service strategies so that they can accommodate these trends- among others. But if you come in with the right perspective, and you do the work, not only can you build and engaged audience of customers, but your customers will own their loyalty more since they must make a more active choice to follow your brand, and that act of making an active choice is a very, very powerful thing.

Bottom line: small businesses and self-employed professionals who use social media as an enhancement, who do the research to see what works and what doesn't, they will ultimately catapult their businesses to levels never thought possible.

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LinkedIn wants to be part of your breakfast.

You know that part where you open your tablet, review the news in Pulse. Or you might be looking at your LinkedIn update stream on your home page.

Both Pulse and your LinkedIn stream of news have more noise than the Wall Street Journal, right now. But you are in more control of what you read.

How Print Made Money

The advertorial in a print magazine was deliberately made to look similar in type to the editorial page. Although titled "Advertisement", some readers who regularly ignored display ads were interested in the conversational format of the advertorial. So, they read & some bought.

The newspaper made money matching a supplier with a customer.

LinkedIn is doing something similar. It is allowing franchise brands to post their advertorials directly into your LinkedIn update stream.

These sponsored updates are different from the LinkedIn paid ads which you see around the edge of the LinkedIn, usually in widget on the right hand side.

Our Tests with Sponsored Updates & Buying Impressions

Last year, when the sponsored update program Joe and I tried out some of the features out -using our company page.

We were interested in acquiring a larger reach for our contributors, by buying impresssions.

First, buying impressions is relatively simple to do.

You figure out what your target audience is, fill in a few buttons and then you are presented with screen that looks like this.

sponsor.png

Ok, this campaign would cost us $23.74 for each 1,000 impressions we want to buy.

We are targeting the 104k LinkedIn users in Restaurant or Hospitality industry, Senior Director or VP and above. We are also targeting it to the people who are in business development, sales or marketing. Director level or higher.

So, 10K impressions would cost us $237.40.

And 100 click throughs, or direct responses, would cost $629.00

Is this a good deal?

It is a brilliant deal, compared to the alternative of using press release software. Which many franchisors are using to get their name out there.

Prices for Press Release Software

If your franchise brand is using press release software, what does it cost & what do you get?

Here is typical price list.

press release software price.png

So which franchisors are spending money on press release software?

Well, put in "franchise" in the searchbox and you will be a list of franchisors trying to get their name out using press release software.

Here is a typical press release, from Launch Trampoline.

Launch Trampoline.png

Ok because they have embedded video, we can calculate that they spent at least $500 to use the software. This one time.

But who the heck is going to read this?

1. You have to get the piece picked up by a local journalist.

2. You have to get the local journalist to find the piece interesting.

3. The local journalist has to decide that they have space to run the article as placement.

Finally, you need qualified buyers -either consumer or business- to look at the article. Which will run without the video in most cases.

Worse, is that if you do all this & the time isn't right for your reader, you have wasted your advertising budget.

The LinkedIn Advantage - Sponsored Updates - Direct to Reader

If you are targetting a professional audience, then the largest group of readers is on LinkedIn.

1. You can target the exact group of readers you want. No waiting around for a journalist, their editor and the paperboy to deliver your message.

2. You can send them messages with rich content, like videos.

3. You can keep in touch, once they have read your message or viewed your video. Because your customers buy when it is convenient from them & not when it is convenient for you.

Making an Impression on LinkedIn

When your brand needs to make an impression in LinkedIn, send me an email in LinkedIn. Use the title "I want to make an impression."

Or, you can just sign up for more of our ideas about how to publish on LinkedIn. Just click here and Mail Chimp will take over. Thanks. Oh, and we never give out your email.

This is how "advertising" is described on Wikipedia:

"...a form of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners; sometimes a specific group) to take or continue to take some action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering..."

Eeek.

While social media does, in fact, persuade and encourage audiences, the idea that it should be used intentionally in that way to "manipulate" an audience to take action seems an affront to the very idea of being social.

Then again...perhaps social circumstances do often by their very nature lead to manipulative situations. From the sandbox to the schoolyard to the workplace...manipulation occurs all over.

Does that make it right?

The sandbox is really for playing, getting to know one another, learning and growing. The fact that sometimes one or another participant may manipulate another doesn't alter the initial intent of the sandbox itself. The sandbox is still a "good" place, a place for fun, laughter and friendship.

So is social media.

As users and as professional organizations, we cannot allow the fact that some companies may use social platforms for their own manipulative purposes to shape what social media truly is.

We cannot give those manipulators that power.

And, most important...we cannot be those manipulators.

Social media provides an opportunity for companies to build trust with their audiences, to be truthful with them, to provide their audience with real value that will encourage and support them.

Companies that recognize that have a great opportunity to create social platforms that will take relationships with their clients to entirely new levels.

So, think of social media not as advertising but as an opportunity to communicate with your audience.

Instead of trying to "manipulate" them into buying your product or service, use your expertise to help solve their problems now. Share your knowledge, and when they come to place where they need to invest in what you offer, they'll have no other thought but turning to you as their solution.

Don't persuade them with deals. Dig deeper. Show them the more that you are. Show them WHO you are...as an organization and a team of people.

You're not a "company" with deals. You're a group of people who have come together to help solve the problems your audience has.

Only you can do it the way you do it, and as they get to know you they'll see just that.

>Don't advertise.

Be authentic. Be yourself. Be real. And have fun in the sandbox.

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]

LED Source- the Franchisor's Vendor

My client LED Source is an awesome company that has now been valued very highly by the "right people".

They are a franchisor & also a vendor to franchisors, retrofitting lighting for great chains like Massage Envy and Starbucks.

We will ALL eventually need LED lighting so they are out there promoting themselves on both levels. They are a terrific futuristic franchise opportunity and at the same time franchisors and chains, such as Starbucks, need to be retrofitted with all new lighting.

But how to go after a Starbucks type entity when you think "hey I'm just a small company?"

Be a small company that ROARS!

If you can make an intelligent presentation as to the whys, wheres, how tos and in LED Source's case, the tax credits the customer will receive, you can pitch anyone. It just takes tenacity and an intelligent, succinct "pitch".

Window Genie- 3M Partnership

Another great example is another terrific client of Sanderson & Associates: Cincinnati based Window Genie.

Window Genie has reached an agreement with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films. The partnership will provide Window Genie, a franchise chain with over 200 units that provides window cleaning and window tinting to homes in more than 24 states, an opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare and can help lower utility bills.

Beginning April 1, Window Genie franchisees will offer the residential Envision™ film options that include clear view, glare control, sun block and shade offerings. The film options range from 70%-40% for total solar energy rejection (TSER), a quality which stands to save homeowners significantly on their utility bills.

Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies, initiated by Window Genie.

"We approached 3M two years ago actively seeking the partnership," said Ken Fisk, vice president of operations for Window Genie.

"We believed Window Genie's reputation as an established residential home service business put us in a great position to illustrate to 3M the value of forming a partnership with us.

Through two years of conversations pertaining to the opportunity 3M had to penetrate the residential market through a partnership with Window Genie, a company with over 125,000 residential customers in our database, both parties agreed it was mutually beneficial to move forward."

"The partnership is mutually beneficial," said Fisk.

"While Window Genie is able to further customer satisfaction by providing a highly recognizable brand of top quality window film, 3M is able to successfully penetrate the residential market and build brand awareness for their line of residential film among Window Genie's customers that span over 200 markets in 24 states."

For years 3M's line of Envision™ Wrap Films has been an industry favorite, earning commendations for its high performance, sustainable materials and comprehensive warranty.

Founded in 1994 by Rik Nonelle, Window Genie recently appeared on Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 5000 list and on Entrepreneur Magazine's list of top 100 home-based franchises. The partnership stands to benefit Window Genie franchisees every bit as it will benefit customers," said Fisk.

"We look forward to improved training and support by providing one brand of film to our franchise partners," said Fisk. "We believe it will help streamline systems and enable growth with a more successful method of coaching throughout the entire Window Genie system."

ABOUT WINDOW GENIE

Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing.

Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating more than 200 units in 24 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

ABOUT LED SOURCE

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions.

In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

There are two basic Trade Show strategies: Gather or Filter.

If your primary objective is increasing brand recognition, getting the word out about a new product, or attracting the majority of the show's attendees, you probably want to gather.

If your objective is to attract top prospects, increase face time with highly qualified buyers, or search for those hard-to-find A-level leads, you probably want to filter (a technique that places quantity on the back burner, opting instead for fewer, but more qualified, leads).

The following tactics will help you implement the approach you choose, and ultimately land you the quantity and quality of leads you're looking for.

Option 1: Gather

If you're looking to create a rush to your booth, you'll want to let everyone know what you've got planned. Pre-show e-mail campaigns are designed to do just that: reach as many people as possible for as little as possible. Send e-mails introducing your company and letting attendees know where your booth is located and why they should add it to their must-see lists.

To gather attendees at your booth, you need to create a reason for them to come. Build traffic by distributing promotional items, hosting an in-booth contest, activity, or presentation -- anything that will pique attendees' curiosity and get them into your exhibit.

The layout of your booth should be open and inviting: no walls that block attendees, no imposing barriers such as counters or tables. Signage should be bold and eye catching. If there's not a line or crowd in your booth at all times, you're doing something wrong.

Your booth staff should be trained to collect leads efficiently. Now is not the time for long sales pitches; you're focusing on the sound-bite speech. And, with so many attendees expected to pass through your exhibit, a quick, reliable lead-capture system is vital.

Option 2: Filter

The first step when filtering attendees is to determine whether there are enough valuable leads attending the show to make it worth your while to exhibit. If there are, then you'll need to find out who those leads are, design a marketing strategy to reach those individuals, and get enough of them to visit your booth -- and ultimately purchase your product or service -- to pay for your presence at the trade show.

At the least, you must identify and contact the attendees you'd like to see and let them know you'll be at the show. At best, you can set up appointments ahead of time with key prospects and VIP clients.

If you're not sure who your top prospects are, devise a plan to cull those few qualified attendees from the herd. E-mail all attendees a link to a Web site where you pre-qualify leads via an online survey. Then target the most promising respondents.

While no one wants to be seen as unfriendly on the trade show floor, your booth should not go out of its way to attract everyone. Here, barriers to entry are not only acceptable, they might even be preferable. Meeting rooms are probably necessary. Signage should allow attendees to self qualify rather than attracting every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Consider a high-priced or high-quality promotional giveaway, something of greater value than the branded pens or T-shirts you might use if you were gathering. Remember, since you're exclusively focusing on a handful of attendees, you can afford to spend more per attendee than if you were targeting the show's entire pre-registration list.

"Ask Trade Show Bob" is a simple dial-up service that allows anyone to call me, any time, whenever a little exhibit expertise is needed. Whether you're having trouble planning your exhibit, measuring its effectiveness -- heck, if you just need to know who to call to get your exhibit electric turned on call him.

(You'll get 30 minutes of on-the-fly strategic and/or tactical trade show advice for just $69.00 per 30-minute session. Bob is available any time, day or night, before, during or after your show. )

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

Franchises have the best of both worlds: they can combine local and national marketing strategies to spur growth.

The franchisor will create the overall marketing plan and blanket customers at a national level, while each individual franchisee will take that plan and execute at the local level so it has a measurable impact in the community.

However, not every franchise is not capitalizing on this strategic advantage.

Typically, a franchisor's national marketing plan includes advertising, email campaigns, television and radio commercials, online marketing, social media (around the central brand) public relations and direct mail. All of these channels are great for creating and building brand awareness at the national level, but none of these activities actually connect the brand to local communities.

When it comes to the local level, franchisors should rely on and support franchisees because they have the necessary connections needed to grow the business.

While franchisees have the upper hand in local marketing, more than 50% of franchisees feel their franchisors aren't providing them with the support they need to be successful.

While franchisees are dependent on franchisors for certain activities, there are some proactive steps that local franchisees can take to grow their business at the local level.

Local listings put your business front and center

One of the easiest ways a franchisee can contribute to local marketing is through local listings in online directories. Being listed in online directories such as Google and Yelp will give franchisees more online visibility and drive more traffic back to the franchisor's main website, thus upping SEO (search engine optimization).

Currently 51% of consumers search for local businesses on-the-go, making local listings in online directories an important part of any local marketing plan. The consistent visibility online directories provide franchisees will keep the business at the top of customers minds.

A good example of a local franchisee listing in an online directory is Subway. As you can see below, Subway's local listing brought it to the top of a mobile search page for "sandwich shop."

Responding to reviews in a timely manner

Local listings will certainly help SEO, but they aren't the only contributing factor -- reviews are also critical to the SEO mix. If you read our Google My Business blog post, you know that Google (and many other directories) will link your listings to reviews, making reviews an integral part of a local marketing strategy.

At a time when 88% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends, best practices recommend that franchisees respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely manner in order to get the most out of review sites. While a franchisee might be discouraged by seeing a bad review, they need not give up. Studies show that 30% of reviews will turn positive if the business simply responds to the unhappy customer (and it might even be removed).

For example, this AMC movie theater could have improved their Yelp rating from the start if they simply responded. While the movie theater is lucky that the reviewer updated the review independently, it would have demonstrated good customer service if AMC had responded.

Form an online community with social media

An online community might seem like something a franchisor should manage, but when it comes to specific questions and quick responses, franchisees reign supreme.

First, let's dispel a myth about franchises: that franchisors (a national brand with a large marketing budget) and franchisees (local business with limited resources) are on different capability playing fields when it comes to marketing. National brands miss 86% of the feedback on social media channels, meaning your franchise could be missing major opportunities on social.

A good way to ensure your franchise doesn't miss any feedback is to turn the management of online communities over to those who are actually part of the community -- the franchisee. Not only will the franchisee be quicker to respond and engage with community members, they have a vested interest in the success of the online community: it means more business for their location.

I found an interesting post about how a Holiday Inn in Rockland, M.A. combines social and community by showcasing a local chef's availability for weddings.

For any of these measures to be successful, there needs to be clear direction to the franchisee on how to proceed. It is the responsibility of the franchisor to create a consistent brand image across all franchises. While local marketing will help create a local identity for each franchisee, there needs to be a strong brand that seen at every location.

For a guide successful local franchise marketing strategies, check out our white paper, Who Owns Local Marketing? Examining the Franchisor/Franchisee Gap. This white paper explores how multi-unit enterprises and franchises can monetize local internet marketing and how to narrow the growing gap between corporate HQ and local retail locations.

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

The post See Franchise Growth With Local Marketing appeared first on LocalVox.

Recently a potential client asked "How much for your company to re-do my website?"

A question so simple carried with it such ambiguity.

Before determining the answer we had to know specifics.

Starting with history, we asked when was the last time the website was worked on. The answer came back ..."oh, I dunno, maybe 5 to 10 years ago."

When we asked what functionalities would be needed, the eyes glazed over.

When asked what were the business goals..... a long discussion followed about tactics but no real strategic plan emerged. Desperate for some kind of feedback we asked.... "why do you think you need your website re-done?"

The answer.... "Folks tell us it looks a bit outdated and we think when people go there, after seeing the same thing over and over, they may not want to come back."

Saying one needs a website today is like saying one needs a religion. Would you like that by the cup or by the pound?

A simple style sheet change or choosing a "new template" in today's business world is not going to offer any more relevant content than what was offered before.

Taking that tact will do more harm than good. Yet that is what this potential client was fishing around for. They later openly stated they had a relationship who could "freshen" up their site for $500 and wanted to know if we could be competitive.

What they had failed to realize was.... websites no longer exist... driven from existence by technology much like the typewriter.

What has taken their place is a myriad of online business solutions. These solutions are predicated on facilitating specific business goals. Some help drive service businesses and others drive companies who sell products. Their was a good solution waiting for these folks that would have elevated their business. Eventually their competition will drive them to this realization.

The upside to this evolution is businesses now have the potential to be a global offerings. But maybe you do not need that. Maybe you just want to be local.... and that's OK. Regardless of your ideal market size, the first thing people will do when they become aware of your offering, is validate you. That is done online. And all of the tenets that drive good marketing today should be in place when they pull up your online presence.

A comparative from what one did yesterday to market to what is being done today might help illustrate my point:

Why someone should buy your product or service over your competitor. In yesterday's world, you sent out a direct mail piece and bought newspaper and trade ads containing customer testimonials. In today's world, your "website" has the ability for your customers to "like me" on Facebook, write a review and share through email and other electronic venues. Now your customers spread the good word, or bad word, about your service or product.

Want to know why customers buy your product and/or service and what else you could offer them?

It is much easier to do that today if your online presence has the functionalities in place to acquire that data.

To get this kind of information in yesterday's marketing world, focus groups were pulled together matching your target demographic. They were or weren't buying your product and as you sat sequestered behind "the glass" in an adjacent room you listened to these folks talk about your offering.

Led by a moderator they talked about what and what was not appealing to them. One would pay tens of thousands of dollars for that information.

Now, you post a form on your website with the same questions or have the form as part of an email that is generated automatically when someone has inquired or purchased from your "website."

And maybe you add to that form a trial offer or a discount on their next purchase to stimulate response and increase repeat business... a reward for their valued opinion. It's a lot less expensive than focus groups and you will be amazed what you will learn all the while increasing your sales. Your online presence should be a core function of your business and marketing efforts.

Do that and offer relevant meaningful content to your current and potential customers and you have a way finder to future success.

The basic paradigm of marketing your company and getting awareness has not changed over time. What has changed is how your customers come to know your offerings and your value proposition. It's not by way of a newspaper or a magazine. In fact, buy a commercial during the Superbowl, the holy grail of awareness, and prepare yourself to be vetted out by way of mobile phones, note pads, laptops and desktop computers.

A $500 CSS template change for your website is like throwing an Earl Scheib $99.95 paint job on a rusted out 10 year old car and asking customers to get in for a test drive.

It's the last thing you should ever want your customers to experience.

Today your current and prospect customers are not going to your website. They are going to your business. What you offer and the experience they have while there will be critical to your prosperity.

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]

Networking can be awfully tedious. Especially if you are in the wrong group.

Networking on LinkedIn can be just as dull - you have to pick the right LinkedIn group to join. How do you pick the right group?

Well, in the previous post, I showed you a neat trick - How to invite the right people to connect with you. (The people who had just been looking at your profile are very likely to connect with you, if you just ask them. No need for a fancy invite.)

Now, you could invite everyone who had just viewed your profile to connect with you. But, I don't recommend this. Even when you use this technique, you have to have a purpose or reason to invite someone to connect or join your network.

Remember, the trick was that they were the "right" people because they were interested in you right now.

So, how do you get into the right group? Simple, you invite the "right" people. Probably have something to say to them, don't you?

And I am going to show you how to invite the "right" people to a LinkedIn group.

Now, what Joe and I do is to invite our new 1st connections to 3 or 4 of the franchise groups we own or manage.

For example, we would invite an New York attorney whose practice involved commercial transactions to the Franchise Attorney Group, the Finance Group, and to the New York Franchise Association Group.

Joe and I can easily do this because we are owners/managers of these three groups, and many others. LinkedIn makes it easy for owners/managers to invite their connections to join a group.

But, how can you do the same thing? When you are not a manager or owner?

LinkedIn doesn't make it obvious anymore how you can invite your first connections to join the group or groups you are in.

So, here is one way you can invite your first connections to your favorite group.

I am going to use the example of inviting a first connection to join the Franchise Owner/Franchisee Group.

Step 1 - Go to the Group and Look in the Top Right Hand Corner.

Invite 1.png

See the funny arrow? It's a share button. Now, make sure you are sharing from the front page, where the discussions are.

Step 2. Click on the funny arrow and you will be presented with this box.

invite 3.png

Step 3. You can do several things at this stage.

1. If you click on the blue button, you will be asking everyone who is viewing your feed right now to join the Franchise Owner/Franchisee group. You could safely do that.

2. But, to invite select individuals, you have to:

a) uncheck "Share an update" and;

b) check "Send to individuals", and then click on the blue share button.

Make sure to:

a) have a good reason in the headline for them to open the email and;

b) have a good reason for them to join the group.

Don't go with the standard LinkedIn default, even if you are really pressed for time.

invite 4.png

There you go.

Now, your group will be filled with the right sort of people. People who want to talk with you.

Advanced networking strategies and so much more ....

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

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

There seems to be a general lack of understanding around why social media is important and how it actually generates a return that leads to business growth.

Businesses seem to "do social media" because they are supposed to without really understanding why.

The truth is that the ROI of social media is much greater and more powerful than simply the impact it has on your bottom line.

1. Understand Your Investment

In order to understand what ROI you can expect from social media, first you must understand the investment itself. What is the investment required to produce a return on social media? There are many variables at play; however, at the most general level every organization will need to invest:

  • Time to develop relationships with online audiences
  • Time to create and deliver consistent content that is focused on bringing value to your audience
  • Time to actively engage with audiences and provide superior customer service
  • A dedicated person/team to manage social media
  • Possible promotions to support organic conversations
  • Funding to support the above initiatives

2. Understand the Deeper Return

When time and resources are invested consistently to develop audience-focused social media communication, the ROI can be very powerful. You can expect:

  • Increased brand recognition and credibility in all your markets
  • Increased audience loyalty and trust
  • Engaging conversations with social media audiences
  • Consistently superior customer service
  • Consistent and engaging communication
  • Viral marketing...your audience begins spreading your message for you
  • Bringing true value to your audience

3. Understand the Impact on Your Bottom Line

While the deeper return is all well and good, if ultimately all of that doesn't lead to actual business growth, then what's the point, right?

When a social media campaign achieves the above returns, the revenue returns follow. Specifically, the ROI is evident through:

  • Increased fans/followers (more people know about your product/service)
  • Increased engagement activity (more people talk about your product/service)
  • Increased website traffic due specifically to social media communication
  • Increased customer leads produced through social channels
  • Increased customers (who were first introduced to you through social media)
  • Increased sales from these new customers
  • Increased repeat business due to deepened audience loyalty
  • Increased revenue due to all of the above

Social media communication does not produce an overnight return on investment. The investments in social media must be made consistently over time, and over time they produce a valuable and long-standing return. The beauty is that as long as your communication remains consistent and focused on your audience, the ROI continues to increase over time.

The more you are committed to consistent social conversation that brings true value to your audience, the greater your ROI will be.

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]

If there's one "secret" to social media, this is it. There's no ROI without engagement.

You can post content like crazy, and it won't make a difference unless you are actually engaging with your audience.

Why? Because social media is a conversation, not a lecture. Conversations convert. Lectures do not.

While many companies throw around the word engagement, when it comes to social media it seems that many, in fact, do not understand what it is or how to do it.

Here are some tips to help you engage with your audience in order to increase your ROI.

1. Listen

Engagement begins with listening. It is impossible to participate in a conversation if you are the only one talking and you are not listening to what your audiences is saying. Watch social posts to see what your audience is talking about, especially as it relates to your brand. Listen for times when your audience speaks to or about you. Monitor notifications so you don't miss anything, and don't just listen...HEAR! Take it to heart.

2. Respond

Listening is all well and good. However, if you do not take action to respond to your audience, then the conversation stops. Listening tells the audience you are there. Responding shows the audience that you care. Address the concerns that are voiced online. Deliver prompt customer care. Answer questions when asked; say thank you when you get a pat on the back. Make sure your organization has a clear policy describing how to respond to audience comments online and who is responsible for doing so.

3. Be Proactive

Engagement is not a passive activity. Instead of waiting to respond to what your audience has to say, reach out and start conversations. Connect with clients, business associates, partners and every organization that could become an advocate for your company online. Follow them, like their pages and start monitoring what they post. Find ways to share their content and celebrate their success. Use social media to build and strengthen relationships, and your social connections will soon become a powerful marketing army.

4. Be Consistent

Engagement isn't a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You can't fake it. You actually have to participate in the conversation: show up and be authentic so your audience knows you are really there for them. Skip the lecture and ignite an ongoing conversation with your audience, a conversation that inspires a meaningful return.

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]

(Originally published in Progress Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 8 2014, by Frances Leary)

Most LinkedIn 'experts' either don't have an active company page or recommend against using a company page. I have read one 'expert' claim how that it was too hard to get people to both follow him & his company page.

However, there are advantages and disadvantages in creating, maintaining and distributing content using your company page. We have had an active company page for a little under a year and are very pleased with the results. But, you may have a different experience.

So, here are the two primary considerations to help you decide between publishing long form on Pulse versus using your company page to distribute content to LinkedIn members.

#1. What type of analytics do you need?

You can either share articles, create long form posts on Pulse, or publish on your company page. But, you won't get equally good analytics from each method.

a. Sharing

LinkedIn is phasing out one of our favorite widgets -- "Who has Viewed your Updates?"

whose viewed.png

In the latest LinkedIn interface, you will only get occasional notices of how many people have viewed your updates.

The reach of organic sharing has been steadily diminishing over the last 18 months.

Look, even though Joe has over 10,000 connections, his sharing of this article had only 45 views. Sharing is nice, but because of the limited organic reach it is no substitute for serious marketing.

b. Long Form Publishing on Pulse

Now, if you are publishing long form posts using Pulse you can get better analytics.

Here are the numbers from my last 6 Pulse posts.

Pulse.png

These are average numbers, 150 -250 views with 1-4 comments. But, at least you get the analytics for each of you posts.

c. Publishing on Company Pages

Now, if you want even more analytics, then you need to be posting your content with your company page.

The analytics are considerably more in depth, and LinkedIn has just added a new feature: Notifications.

You can get trends, daily, weekly and monthly views.

You cannot, however, get reports.

Here are what some of these analytics look like, from our company page.

company page.png

Note, that the articles we are publishing are now getting over 1,000 views on a daily basis. More than a 20x increase over just sharing. That's worthwhile, if you want a larger audience.

Conclusion: If you need detailed analytics on per post basis, you will have to create a company page and publish your content on it. On the other hand, if you are content to simply share and don't really care about your limited reach, then you should not create a company page. It will be too much work for you.

#2. Getting An Audience for Your Company

It is much easier to get people to connect with you in comparison to task them to follow your company.

The reason for this is simple. You and I connect because we see something interesting in each other's profile.

It is not so obvious why would want to follow a company, though.

For example, over the last 8 years my first connections have grown from 0 to over 6,000.

But, during the last year from March 2014, we have only grown our company followers from 114 to 516.

Conclusion: Unless you have a compelling offer, it will be hard to get LinkedIn members to follow your company.

Now for us, the advantages of better analytics out-weigh the difficulty of getting followers. And that is why we have a company page on LinkedIn.

For more on publishing and advertising and much more ....

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]

Franchises, at their core, are simply businesses. While many franchise activities can seem confusing because they are split between franchisors and franchisees, franchise marketing should be a united effort with a goal of driving positive business growth.

Not only do franchises need to worry about overall national brand messaging, franchisors also need to be aware of how their message breaks down at the local franchisee level. Avoid these five marketing mistakes and your franchise will present a consistent and positive image to customers.

Mistake #1: Not defining your marketing message

Whether you are building a franchise or have already established your business, your marketing message should speak to your original core values. Brand consistency is a defining feature of great franchise marketing and is reliant on a strong core marketing message.

Defining your marketing message early will set your brand identity and provide customers with a baseline for expectations.

Key areas you should focus on include customer service, operations, logo usage, advertising campaigns and quality control checks. While some of these areas are not traditionally thought of as "marketing," you need to remember that marketing is everything a business does -- from the name tag design that an employee wears to the promotional posters displayed in stores -- that impact the franchise's brand image.

Mistake #2: No guidelines

After you have defined your marketing message, you need to decide who will do the actual marketing -- the franchisor or the franchisee?

Establish guidelines of how the marketing materials and messages can and should be used, as well as what the franchisee is responsible for. For any area the franchisee is responsible, make sure you give clear directions on how to accomplish each task.

For example, if your franchisees implement their own social media marketing, you should provide them with directions on how to set-up social profiles on networks, best practices and sample posts. When giving marketing freedoms to franchisees, highlight locations that are doing an exemplary job and share their success (and how they did it) with everyone.

The next three mistakes are problems that could easily be mitigated by providing marketing guidelines to franchisees.

Mistake #3: Micro sites

Local franchisees should have an online space available to them to share local activities and news, but separate micro sites are not the answer. In addition to weakening overall franchise SEO, separate franchisee micro sites can be confusing to customers.

Franchises should have a main website that allows franchisees to have sub-domain pages. Sub-domain pages keep the SEO juice flowing to one website, while giving customers the opportunity to find the specific location they are searching for. The sub-domain page can contain local contact information for each franchisee, deals/promotions or social activity.

Sub-domain pages are an area where it is a good idea to give your franchisees some creative freedom so that they can spark some fantastic local marketing ideas.

Mistake #4: Not having local listings

Just like you want all your franchisees to be discoverable on your main website, you also want each individual location to be easily found by customers in online searches.

Being listed on Google, Yelp and other local directories will help your franchisees be more visible online and drive more SEO back to your main website.

An example of good franchisee differentiation is Panera Bread. Panera Bread calls their St. Louis locations "Saint Louis Bread Co.," in order to give these locations a local characteristic that differentiates them from other locations.

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Mistake #5: Ignoring reviews

Not responding to reviews, whether a franchise or franchisee, leaves you at risk of losing business. 79% of people trust online ratings and reviews as much as personal recommendations, so a negative review can turn quite a bit of business away. However, responding to reviews can change the reviewers mind.

A negative or moderate review is often left soon after a visit, when emotions are running high. By listening and apologizing to a customer, you mellow emotions and give your reviewer time to change their mind about your business (and in turn, their review).

Don't let review sites be one-way -- respond and have conversations with your customers.

The best place to optimize local franchise marketing is with a local marketing platform. LocalVox gives your franchise the ability to monitor ratings and reviews, share local deals, news and manage local listings (to name a few) -- all with the touch of a button.

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

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

The post 5 Local Franchise Marketing Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on LocalVox.

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to gain exposure for you and your brand, and has quickly become the powerhouse for social selling. The site has gained traction and its value has become evident.

From lead generation to employment opportunities, people have used the site to meet their personal business goals.

Now, as company pages emerged, similar articles were developed on how to make the most of your company page on LinkedIn.

Among the burning questions is engagement - how do we make the most of our LinkedIn page to engage with others, and develop relationships that are key to growing our business?

Below is a great infographic that depicts the key factors in creating a great LinkedIn status update for a company page:

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Some of the more obvious tips include creating a call to action (driving people to your website, blog, or other key site), using images with descriptions (images are appealing and draw attention to your update), and make sure the content is relevant.

Posting an article and asking for questions and opinions is another more obvious method of getting your status update to be seen by more people.

1. Target your updates: as you can see below, at the bottom of your status update box, you have the option to share the update with all followers or targeted people within your network.

Most of the time you'll want to share with the entire group, but there may be times when you want to send an update to only specific people within your network.

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2. Encourage franchise owners to share the company page content: as status updates are created, encourage franchise owners to engage with the content, whether it's liking an update, sharing it with a group they belong to, or commenting.

Of course you don't want all of your franchise owners doing this with every single update, but selective engagement can keep your company page visible.

When engaging,franchise owners should include their own call to action, which includes encouragement for others to follow the company page.

3. Use analytics and page insights: find out which updates were best received, and which had the most engagement. Conversely, which updates were hardly looked at or given a second thought? This information can be helpful when creating content for your company page.

LinkedIn is ever changing and becoming increasingly more impactful in the way people connect for business.

Making sure your company page is the best it can be, providing relevant, useful content that will be shared by others, and looking for new and innovative ways to increase visibility will be the key to a successful company page.

What tips and tricks has your company used?

What's been most beneficial?

Anything you've tried been a complete flop?

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If you would like to know more about Recruiting Franchise Prospects by accessing the LinkedIn database, then just sign up for our weekly newsletter.

LinkedIn is a Big Trade Show

Remember, when we first talked about LinkedIn being a big, but disorganized trade show?

I promised to tell you How to Connect with the Right People.

Now, many 'experts' will tell you to craft some personal invitations & carefully select your connections requests.

Maybe they are right?

I don't really know. What I do know is that I got my 6,000 connections in a much easier manner.

And, I am going to tell you how I did it.

So, how do you know who the right people are to connect with?

It's a trick question.

It isn't whether they are the right people -surely you can figure that out from their profile.

The question is different. Is this the right time to connect with them, offer them an invitation? Timing is what is important.

Ok, how do you know if it is the right time to ask for a connection?

Well, think about being at a trade show, again.

If you are at a trade show manning your booth and someone comes over, what do you do? That's easy. You introduce yourself, engage in some small talk and possibly exchange business cards.

Think of your LinkedIn profile as your trade booth. And people who view your profile as the same as someone visiting your booth in a trade show.

So, how do you invite some of those people who have viewed your profile to connect?

Let me show you a neat trick -one the 'experts' frown on. Probably because it works so well.

4 Easy Steps

(As long as you have Premium LinkedIn membership. Previously, we had recommended that you start with the most inexpensive memberhsip - Personal Plus. Unfortunately, it is no longer available.)

Step 1. Who Has Viewed Your Profile.

On the black toolbar, hover on "Profile" and then click on "Who has Viewed Your Profile".

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Step 2. Check Out Who is Checking You Out.

You will be taken to this page. We can talk about the analytics another time. Just scroll down the page.

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You will find a number of rows like this:

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Step 3. The Tricky Bit

Say I wanted to connect with Chris Hess because he is a franchise owner in one of our groups.

What happens if I click on the "connect" button? I will be prompted for Chris's email.

I can then personalize my invitation, if I have the his email. That might be a bother to get.

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Step 4. Don't Connect from the Profile Page. Search Instead.

Suppose, instead, I simply search for "Chris Hess".

In search, I am also prompted to connect with Chris.

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But, if I ask for a connection from this search results page, then LinkedIn automatically sends an invitation, a generic one, albeit.

Here is the thing.

Chris was just looking at my profile. I'll bet he will be tickled to get even a standard invite from me & he will accept.

Do this once a week, and you will be connecting with right people in a friendly, easy and simple manner.

Connecting to the right people and much, much more ....

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

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

When creating a social media marketing plan, one of your first and foremost goals is to increase the number of "followers" (or "fans" as they are called on Facebook) you have.

While you always want to grow the number of local prospects your business reaches, how do you know how many social media followers are enough?

We can tell you.

Rapid growth of followers should not be a long-term goal for local social media marketing because there will come a point where any new followers gained are not your target audience. You are wasting valuable resources (time and money) if your goal is to generate a large quantity of followers because they most-likely will not be your target customers.

Large national brands often use social media as a branding vehicle, growing their social media followers into the tens and hundreds of thousands. However, as a local business, you aren't using social media for the same branding purposes as your larger counterparts -- your goal is to keep current customers loyal and convert prospective customers into paying ones.

Recently, Copyblogger announced they were leaving Facebook entirely; while many people in the social media marketing world obviously think this is a mistake, the company put a lot of thought into the decision. Those critical of Copyblogger's strategy understand that a large portion of the company's content views originated from Facebook -- content views and an audience that the company clearly felt it could walk away from.

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However, what those critical of Copyblogger did not realize was that the company's fans had a serious engagement problem. After Copyblogger measured the engagement (or lack of) of its fans, the company decided its Facebook efforts weren't providing enough ROI and therefore abandoned the platform.

While I don't recommend leaving a network entirely (a lot of work and trial/error went into the decision at Copyblogger), it does remind us that social media should be a vehicle you use to meet your overall marketing goals and you shouldn't use it simply because "everyone else is doing it."

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Your business is unique and you should never be a sheep that gets lost in the crowd of what every other business is doing. Instead, your focus should be on doing what is right for your business, which might mean standing out from the flock. The three steps outlined below will help you be a pink flamingo in a sea of sheep and help you determine how many social media followers is enough for your business.

1. Determine your social media goals

Your social media goals will define how you actually use the networks and you should routinely check back on these goals to see if your efforts are aligning correctly.

Before you decide whether a network has reached its current potential, you should determine your social media mission, goals and tactics.

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2. Work to increase engagement

Disclaimer: out of all three steps, this should take you the most time and effort. Please don't let this discourage you!

You should have already laid out your social media strategy based off your overall marketing plan. However, the individual tactics you use to increase engagement will often be based on trial and error (and that's normal!).

For example,one of your goals may be to understand and incorporate best practices for posting on each social network. To reach this goal, you could measure the amount of engagement you receive on multiple different types of posts. Once you determine what elements of a post made it successful (whether is was posting during a certain time, being written in a certain format or on a certain topic), you can incorporate those features into future posts in order to reach your overall goal.

Not only will you reach your goal, but you will also begin to understand the characteristics of your audience, based on what they like to see from you on social media.

3. Reassess

By working toward your goals, you will also begin to understand what resonates most with your audience -- and also what doesn't work. Going back to the Copyblogger example, this is the step where the company decided to call it quits after reassessing its efforts.

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Not only will you be able to determine if your followers are interacting with you, but you can determine if you are seeing too much success from your marketing efforts (yes, that exists!).

For example, if you are a chiropractor and have created a Twitter profile and Facebook page in order to raise awareness of your practice and bring new clients through your door (using the advanced search feature). You can see the impact of your social media marketing efforts because you ask when clients where they were referred from, they answer "Twitter" and "Facebook." Your once slow schedule is now booked solid for the next two months with new clients.

While it made sense to grow your social media followers initially, you are now running into problems because you are incredibly busy and your existing clients are having trouble making appointments to see you (a potential loss of business from loyal customers).

At this point, you should sit down and measure the impact social is having on your business. For Copyblogger, they determined Facebook was not worth the time; however, for you it may mean that you should ramp up your efforts to bring in new/repeat business OR scale back to focus on other business efforts that provide you with more ROI.

The key is understanding your goals and when you have reached them, surpassed them or they simply aren't feasible for your business anymore.

Everything your business does should regularly to be measured and assessed to make sure you are spending your valuable resources on the right things. Social media should be something you do because "everyone else is doing it" -- it should bring value to your business.

A good place to start with social media is learning the basics about social posts and the best practices for each network. Our eBook, 9 Ways to Crush it on Social Media, will help you create a strategy that uses the unique characteristics of each network to help you reach your goals.

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

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

The post How Many Social Media Followers Are Enough? appeared first on LocalVox.

When developing B2B public relations and marketing strategies, it's important to never underestimate the power of social media. With over 284 million active users on Twitter and 500 million tweets sent per day, creating engaging content is key to promoting your brand.

If you want to create great social media content that drives interaction, sometimes it takes thinking outside of the box.

Here are three types of unique content your business can integrate into its Twitter strategy:

Start a Twitter chat: A tweet chat is a live, virtual event hosted on Twitter that engages followers by asking questions focused around a single topic. To host, your brand would promote the event beforehand, set a time frame, and use a unique hashtag for users to engage. The chat is normally moderated by a single authority who moderates the discussion. The Disney Institute hosts a regular Twitter chat monthly focusing around a professional development topic such as customer service or leadership. The organization uses #DThink to engage followers and also retweets their ideas and input.

Develop branded quotes: Most social media users enjoy sharing quotes for inspiration across all platforms. In fact, a Quicksprout study showed that quotes consistently outperform questions on Twitter, receiving 847 percent more retweets. Recently, social media has seen an influx of image-based quotes - quotes that are featured on top of an image to create a visually appealing, easily sharable post. Your brand can create these quotes that are unique to your business and feature your logo by using different tools such as smartphone photo apps (Be weary of copyright laws. It's also best practice to contact a designer to create rights-free image templates). Not only will you see increased customer engagement, but you will also see increased visibility of your company logo.

Create your own hashtag: If your brand is committing to a new marketing campaign, starting your own hashtag is a great way to generate buzz. Whether you're promoting a new advertisement, contest, or event, a unique hashtag can increase customer engagement. For example, Coca-Cola used #ShareACoke to promote one of its largest and most successful campaigns. In a period of less than two weeks during the summer of 2014, the company reported over 125,000 Share a Coke posts across digital channels. These posts remained consistent for an extended time, and the campaign resulted in serious sales and brand recognition increases for Coca-Cola.

If you're looking to develop a unique social media strategy for your business and don't know where to start, Ripley PR can help. Our team is experienced in creating engaging content that is representative of your brand and its message. Contact us today for more information.


Attention - A Basic Need.

What do people crave even more than security?

Attention.

We learn at an early age that attention is the best gift of all.

My young son gets attention, so far, like his father used to, by being the class clown.

My young daughter gets attention, so far, by applying herself studiously to her lessons.

The basic human need for attention has not been attenuated by social media.


Attention - From People Who Could Do Business With Us

In the last two articles, And, What Do You Do? & Using Rich Snippets to Create Compelling Headlines, we showed you two things.

First, how to create a better 'About Us' page.

Second, how to create a better title and headline for your 'About Us' page so that more more people who saw only the headline click through to your 'About Us' page.

Ok, now that more people have shown an interest in what you do, what would you like them to do?

If you were at a tradeshow, it would be normal to introduce yourself, ask some questions, and engage in chit-chat.

If all went well, they would want you to ask them for their business card. So, you would. And then get back to them in due course.

Now, how can your website play this role?

How can your website offer to exchange business cards with only people you will get back to --because they are qualified to do business with you?

Well, it cannot. Not exactly. But, your website can do something similar.

By presenting your LinkedIn business card to visitors, you achieve a similar effect. It looks like this. Here is the Franchise-Info Business card.

Example of LinkedIn Company Business Card -in an article

Here is Reid Hoffman's business card, Reid Hoffman is one of the founders of LinkedIn.

Example of LinkedIn Individual Business Card -in an article

Looks good, doesn't it. How can you get one? And what should you do with it?


Getting Your LinkedIn Business Card


The only difficulty with getting your LinkedIn Business card is how to implement it on your "About Us" page.

You want to put this javascript at the into your html, wherever your want your business card to show up.

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Of course, replace http://www.linkedin.com/in/reidhoffman. with your own LinkedIn url. (If you don't know how to find your own LinkedIn url, the instructions are here, just click.)

As always you can ask me for more information in the comments section & I will do my best to answer.For your Smart About Us business listing, we do this automatically for you. You can ask whomever manages your website to do the same for you.

More on Modern Business Cards from LinkedIn ...

If you liked this idea, 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]

Social media has been inching its way into other forms of advertising, including commercials.

At first, it was "innovative" when companies would include their Facebook URL or Twitter handle on their commercials, but Panera took it to a new level.

Did you catch it? They used actual tweets from customers to promote their products.

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This is a great way to reward customers for talking about your brand, and also connecting with customers on a more personal level. There are a few ways you can get this type of conversation to use in your marketing strategies:

Start with your fan base: use a content for a double win - encourage customers to tweet about your product with a specific hashtag on your social media sites. Select a random post every day as a winner. Not only can they win something such as a gift card to your business, but the opportunity to be highlighted in your upcoming marketing piece.

Thank & reward those who are currently doing this: you may not need a contest - you may find that your customers are already talking about your brand, even maybe using hashtags. By reviewing the data from your social media monitoring program, you can identify these consumers, connect with them, and ask permission to use their content in your upcoming marketing promotion.

This is a great way to engage and reward your customers!

Using social media conversations as marketing tools is yet another great reason for monitoring social media data surrounding your brand and products. Use the unstructured feedback as a tool while building relationships and engaging your fans.

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

(This was originally published in Progress Magazine, Volume 21 No. 5, and is relevant for all regional economic centers, not just Atlantic Canada.)

When it comes to developing partnerships and maximizing partner relations for business growth (and to strengthening Atlantic Canadian business overall), there are a number of online strategies that can support that process. In fact, neglecting these strategies often results in missed opportunities.

Here are four strategies to help your organization build partnerships with potential clients, investors, advocates, employees and other businesses.

1.Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools today for building partnerships, so when you send an invitation to connect, write a short personal greeting. You'll be remembered for this. Ask for an introduction when you need one. Join and participate in relevant groups. Don't be shy. LinkedIn's entire purpose is to help people connect. Use it.

2. Monitor and Engage with Twitter Lists

Creating Twitter lists is a powerful way to stay connected with partners, stay on top of their activities, provide support and strengthen relationships. Lists cut through all the chatter and allow you to focus solely on the users whose activity you want to see.

From there you can share their content and engage proactively. Lists can be public, which is perfect when you want to make a display of your support. They can also be private when you want to keep a personal eye on things.

3. Link to Your Partners

Once partnerships are established and if you want to let the world know, use your online platforms to make the partnerships as visible as possible. Put their logos on your website. Share their blog posts through your social channels. Feature them on your site in interviews or partner profiles. This isn't fitting for every partnership, but when it works it can be a powerful promotional tool that benefits you both.

4. Stay Top-of-Mind

Use online tools to make sure your partners know that you're thinking of them. If you come across an article you know your partner would like, email the link. Send happy birthday tweets or more personal notes when special occasions occur. Celebrate successes by congratulating partners on milestones you come across on LinkedIn or by retweeting their good news.

Above all, be authentic in your online development and support of partners.

Also, consider where we would be collectively if all Atlantic Canadian businesses began to see everything other Atlantic Canadian business as a partner. Maybe it's time to break down the online (and offline) barriers and discover the difference we could make if we all truly did support each other.

Claiming your local business listing, not only verifies you as the owner of a valid business, but also gives you the authority to ensure the listing is up-to-date and strengthen your business's SEO.

Whether you have already started claiming listings or are looking to get started, a free SEO report will give you the perfect base of knowledge with optimization tips and top directories to be listed in.

While each local directory has its own specific steps (like the top 5 directories to get listed on), there's an overall general process for claiming your local business listing on directories and indexes. This post will provide you with tips and guidelines about the process of claiming your local business listing.

1. Does a listing already exist?

Many search engines and directories will ask you if your businesses already exists in their records. Even for businesses (including local ones) that have been around for as little as a month, there is a good chance that there is a record of it online somewhere. Don't be surprised to see your business listed with inaccurate or incomplete information. Over half of local businesses have incorrect information online (check here to get a free local directory report on your business).

2. Be prepared with your business's information

To claim a listing (whether there is already one created for your business or not), you will need to input general information about your business. The information required usually consists of:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website address
  • Business category

You want the information to be accurate and identical on every other listing on the web, not only to improve your SEO but also so as not to confuse anyone searching for your business. With 50% of mobile search users visit a store within a day of their search, inaccurate information could be the difference between a new customer or not.

Information that is not necessarily required, but improves your listings visibility is rich media. Optimizing local directories by adding descriptions, photos and videos to profile listings increases customer conversion by 5-10x. The more information your business provides, the more you're in control of your brand and can optimize conversions.

3. Verify your business

The last step ensures that you are the business you say you are. While it may seem inconvenient (because it builds in an extra step), the verification step is actually great for the security of your local business listing and your overall marketing.

There's three ways this verification can occur, two are fairly quick and the third will take a few days:

  • An immediate phone call where you will verify via a pin number
  • An email where you click a verification link
  • A mailed postcard with a pin number verification

One important thing to note regarding verification: you can't choose the method.

To make sure you don't miss your verification, answer all calls, check your spam inbox, as well as your regular email inbox, and make sure everyone in your business knows to be looking for a verification postcard (all depending on the method used).

4. Hurry up and wait

While you were able to complete the local listing process quickly, directories may take a little more time. Your listing changes can appear in a matter of minutes, days or months, depending on the review process.

When you need to make changes in the future, tools like Google My Business will allow you to change many details easily, without re-verifying. However, some local directories might require re-verification on any change (again, it's with your best interest in mind!).

If you are looking to claim many local business listing at once, SearchCast can help get you started and keep every listing up-to-date, taking all the work out of constantly having to keep on top of each listing site. Click here to see the impact claiming one of your local listings will make to your local SEO.

The post Claim Your Local Business Listing appeared first on LocalVox.

In order to set your franchise system and your franchisees up for long-term online success, it's crucial to create a well-defined online marketing model that identifies how the Internet will be used in marketing and who is responsible for various components of that process.

Unfortunately, this is an element that is often overlooked.

1. Search Engine Marketing

It's important to consider the search engine marketing components as well as the social networking components.

  • How will the Internet be used to ensure the franchise website lands on Page 1 for relevant searches in all of its local markets?
  • Who will ensure that happens... franchisor or franchisee?
  • How will social networking be utilized? Only at the brand level or to help local franchises engage with their markets? How many pages and profiles are required to do this?
  • Who is responsible for setting up and maintaining those social media networks?

There are many options for creating a model that fits each franchise system's unique needs. Some franchisors prefer to control the use of online marketing and social media entirely. Some encourage their franchisees to engage online locally using social networking, search marketing or both. Some franchisors control all of the content and customer services, whereas others leave that entirely to the franchisees. Many franchise systems utilize a mix of both.

2. How to Make it Run Smoothly

While we have our opinions as to what works best based on the franchises we've worked with, what's important is to identify the system that works best for your franchise and then specify the ins and outs of how that's going to work, along with guidelines to make sure it all runs smoothly.

Elements to consider include:

  • How to maintain brand consistency.
  • How to monitoring and respond to customer feedback in a consistent and positive way.
  • How to implement a crisis media plan so everyone involves knows how to respond to serious online issues and prevent the rapid spreading of negative customer feedback.

In the event that the responsibility lies largely with franchisees, it is very important to specific y in advance the online expectations and boundaries by which those expectations should be achieved. Items to consider here include:

  • Will social media participation be mandatory, and if so what measures of success will be put in place and what level of interaction would be required?
  • How much time would franchisees be expected to spend on social media in order to accomplish necessary goals?
  • What costs would be incurred to achieve these goals? Time or money or both?
  • Would franchisors recommend outsourcing as an option, and if so how would that be funded?

These are just some of the aspects to consider when designing an Internet Marketing model that meets the needs of your franchise. Each franchise is unique, and it's important to create a tailored model that benefits both franchisor and franchisees.

Also, remember that whether your franchise is a start-up or is well-established with many franchisees, it is never too late to implement a model that will support your online success.

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Robert Cialdini is rightly praised for his work Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition).

Cialdini has trenchant obsersations how seemingly irrelevant features of our social landscape determine much of our choices.

We are familiar with the parlor trick- 3 people conspire together & look up at something in the air.

All in an effort to trick passerbys to join us -in looking at nothing.

Punch as a great variation on this theme!

Google Maps recently updated their local page quality guidelines.

The updated guidelines include changes for both single and multi-location businesses with a focus on creating consistencies.

The major changes include:

1) Descriptors can't be used in listings

Descriptors refers to the title of a listing where you could previously add a place or service, such as "Starbucks Downtown" or " Joe's Pizza Delivery." Google now requires businesses to use the exact name of the storefront in order to create consistency across listings. Extra descriptors, while helpful at times, can be confusing to online searchers and should only be included in the business description. One thing to note: individual practitioners with specified degrees are not considered a descriptors.

For multi-location businesses, the main business name should be used, unless location(s) in a certain demographic area have different names. For example, Panera and Saint Louis Bread Co. are part of the same business but have different names based on geographic region.

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2) Two or more brands that share the same location must pick one name

If your business is a bookstore with a coffee shop inside, you will be forced to choose the primary focus of your business: either bookstore OR coffee shop, not both. Google made this change in order to provide searchers with a clear idea of the type of businesses that are located on Google Maps. Google does not want to direct a searcher to a mislabeled small coffee shop that is really a large bookstore at the same location.

3) If different departments have individual pages, each must be labeled with a unique category

This rule applies to public-facing departments that operate as a distinct entity, such as the Toyota of Escondido Collision Center. The name and primary business should be differentiated from other departments (Collision Center vs. Sales Department) and will typically have separate customer entrances. In addition to having separate categories, each page may have different hours of operation.

The "Toyota of Escondido" dealership would fall under the category "Toyota Dealer," while the "Toyota of Escondido Collision Center" will be in the "Auto Repair Shop" category.

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4) Virtual offices are not allowed

If a you have an employee who works remotely for you out of their home in a different city, you can not list your business as having a location in that city in an effort to have your business appear bigger. Your business must have a physical location that is staffed during regular operating hours in order to be included on Google Maps.

5) Your business category should be as specific as possible

Since this new rule is a SEO best practice, I know you are already doing it!

However, if you aren't, make sure to choose specific category names instead of an overarching category in order to show up accurately in searches. Stay away from broad categories and dig into the nitty gritty of your business.

6) Solo practitioners who work in multi-location practices should display both names

Any professional that is the sole public-facing figure in a location should display both the brand/company and his/her name. Professionals who fall into this category would be doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, insurance agents, etc.

Example: [brand/company]: [practitioner's name]. Therefore, Joe Miller, the sole agent at an Allstate insurance location would use the name: Allstate: Joe Miller

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It is not yet clear how strictly these changes will be enforced, but Google implemented these changes to make it easier for customers to find your business, not to hinder your chances of being discovered. By not updating your Google Maps local listing to meet the new guidelines, your business runs the risk of being suspended - a high price to pay for not making a few quick changes.

If you haven't created a Google Maps listing yet, fear not! With the introduction of Google My Business, the technology giant has made it easier for small businesses to dominate local search from one central dashboard.Download LocalVox's free eBook to learn more.

Each social media platform has different users that are engaged, and those users want to see and interact with different types of content.

This makes social content marketing all that more complex because company's must tailor the content they distribute in order to benefit audiences in different places and in different ways.

The only way to know for sure what content resonates with your audiences on different platforms is to test it and adapt your content strategy based on results.

However, this is a brief overview of what users on each platform are looking for:

Facebook Facebook Users like to interact, to be engaged. They want to participate in a conversation. They want to feel part of something and be related to on a more personal level. In a nutshell, this means you do not simply regurgitate news by posting articles and information. Use interactive media. Ask questions. Post conversations that inspire and motivate. Get them involved.

Twitter Twitter Users like things to be quick (which, of course they have to be when limited to 140 characters). They like links and short tips. They also like photos and videos they can click on quickly, and short quotes seem to appeal to the Twitter audience. With your Twitter posts, aim to inform, entertain, network and inspire. Then share links to sites that do the same. Make sure you use hashtags with keyword phrases, too.

LinkedIn LinkedIn Users are professionals seeking professional information. Link to relevant and informative articles. Use only highly professional and well-respected resources. This doesn't mean that posts should be stuffy or overly academic. Not at all. Just know that LinkedIn users trust what they read on LinkedIn as being accurate, so you want to provide them with beneficial information that is also bang-on. Using keyword phrases in your posts is also of benefit.

Pinterest Pinterest users like images. Go figure. Pin images that will inspire users to take action or will solve a problem they have. Use humour, entertain, make them think and above all...have fun.

Google Plus Google Plus Users are largely tech-savvy and interested in information related to technology and strategy. This may not be a fantastic resource for social engagement for many of you, however for Google rankings it is GOLD. Use keyword phrases in your posts and link back to your site often.

On all platforms, sharing your original company content (ex: blog posts) is very important. This increases your credibility, benefits your audience, and helps you build a stronger relationship with them, as well.

Lately, everyone seems to be concerned with only content and social media marketing, but there's a basic marketing tactic that should be done before anything else when it comes to online marketing: local listings.

It may seem flippant in the digital marketing age to be listed in a directory, but online local listings bring a whole new dimension to marketing plans.

The purpose of local listings, or citations, is to make local businesses more visible on the internet. Each new listing is a new webpage where that business can be found, as well as a place their website is linked to. Meaning more places a business can be found and linked to.

A high priority for small businesses is to be easily found in searches where over 59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a local business. Google's goal, in particular, has been to provide the most relevant results to searchers. They reward local businesses who provide consistent and accurate information on directories, which aids Google in their goal, by increasing search ranking.

But making local listings the first part of any local businesses digital marketing plan isn't just for search engine visibility. It helps ROI for multiple aspects of a business, simply starting with visibility.

Local Listings Compete

Local businesses have a lot of competition, between the big companies and the other small businesses around them their audience is being pawed at from all angles. Claiming a business online lets the owner control the address, content and products and services provided. The more consistent and complete a listing, the greater the visibility and more competitive it is.

Listings aren't just for search engines, they provide information for people searching those directories or Chambers for services.

70% of Internet searches are for local business services, each directory a business has its listing on is another place it can be found.

By having a complete and up-to-date listing, prospective clients can easily reach you, while 60% of local businesses don't even have a phone number on their website, your business will be easily reachable.

Local Listings Boost SEO

You don't have to be a genius at SEO (search engine optimization) to reap the SEO benefits of local listings. If a business is listed on 100+ directories online, they will have valuable links back to their website and local listings are critical to your rankings on Google Maps. And if each listing has consistent information, that authority and credibility will help the business rank better in search engine results.

Optimize each listing to get the most value from each backlink with SearchCast which optimizes your Google My Business (Google+Local, Google Place) page. And because SearchCast is an add-on to LocalCast, you can also see where you business ranks on both Google and Google Maps for each of the keywords that matter to you, how they are changing over time and your overall local SEO improvement.

 

Local Listings Level the Playing Field

Did I mention local businesses have a lot of competition?

Because beyond the other local businesses there are some huge companies that can seem really intimidating. It's an actual David and Goliath story when a local coffee shop competes against Starbucks, and local listings make the competition a bit more fair.

A local business can take more time to optimize the listing for the local area, appeal to local customers and drive more reviews (although we think multi-location businesses and franchises should do more here).  Most directories are free to be listed on and, as previously mentioned, provide the benefit of visibility, as well as links back to that local business' website.

Those directories and backlinks mean that when someone searches "coffee shop" on any search engine, not only will the nearest Starbucks appear, but the local coffee shop will, too. That local shop could even be the first result on that page.

Reviews Play into Local Listings too

Google My Business isn't the only directory that will link your listing to online reviews, many of the most biggest and most visited directories, such as Yelp, include reviews as well. 88% of people trust trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends meaning that they may be able to find a business through directories but if they reviews are bad, they may not go to your business. Supplement local listings with  responding to reviews for a powerhouse beginning marketing strategy.

A small change in a business' rating can mean a big change. On Yelp a business with 3.5 stars versus 3 stars is 63% more likely to be full. 33% of negative reviews turn positive, making it possible for a business who may be a half star off to turn things around, all through responding to reviews!

Get started by claiming the local business listing beginning with Google, Bing and Yelp.  While those aren't the only directories to be listed in its a good start in the over 130 main directories that should be targeted.

Start converting 2-3x as many new web searchers all through local listings alone and then take things to the next level by responding to online reviews, enhancing each listing to show how great people think your business is! With prospects like that, why wouldn't local listings be the first step in a local business digital marketing plan?

 The post Why Local Listings Matter appeared first on LocalVox.

Jonathan Perelman, VP of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, once stated, "Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants."

Telling your brand's story thrives on distributing content to your audience through multiple channels.

When sharing content on social media, keep in mind that each platform has a unique way of communicating.

To maximize your B2B public relations and marketing strategies, knowing how to use each platform to share your company's story is key.

Twitter offers you a quick, fun, and laidback way to share updates with your audience. The social media platform centers around posting short, to the point updates and using "hashtags" for engagement.

But with only 140 characters available in each tweet, is it possible to tell your brand's story? Absolutely.

Here are a few ways to capitalize on Twitter's unique features and tell an engaging brand story:

1. Use hashtags. Twitter is known for its use of hashtags, a trend that changed social media sharing. One way your business can tell its story is by creating a unique hashtag to boost engagement. When developing company hashtags, make sure they are cohesive to an overall message and marketing strategy. Coca-Cola, for example, used #ShareACoke during its marketing campaign to encourage interaction on social media. The hashtag aligns with the company's mission to "inspire moments of optimism and happiness."

2. Get to know your customers. Engaging with your audience is Twitter 101. Replying to a customer's tweet is an easy way to exceed customer expectations while finding out more about them. Essentially, it's an opportunity to do market research. Pizza Hut uses every opportunity on Twitter to connect with their audience. If you look through the company's Twitter page, you will see endless replies to customer tweets. These tweets range from welcoming a follower to assisting with a complaint. Of course you can't help but also notice their numerous witty replies. An audience of one million followers is smaller than other megabrands, but the personal attention Pizza Hut offers customers via Twitter is huge.

3. Share content. Tweets can be used as quick, real-time updates, but that doesn't mean you can't share content with your followers. Promote your blogs and press releases in your tweets by including a link to your content. Shrink the link and use what is left of the 140 characters to include a hashtag and ask your audience a question to draw them in.

If you have content to share and a story to tell, then get it out there. Twitter is a great platform to offer real-time updates and cross-promote content you wish to share. Don't be afraid to reply to your followers and connect in ways you can't on other platforms.

At Ripley PR, we have experts on hand who can develop social media and content strategies for your business. We know how best to use all social media platforms as well as how to develop relatable content your audience wants to read.

As time moves forward so must the technology we use, right? If you are a local business with a Flash website, you are among the walking dead.  It's time to get a modern, responsive website.

Adobe Flash is a software that, on a basic level, allows users to create animated works. With its introduction it caught on quickly for websites because it enabled stunning visuals.  Local agencies wowed customers with "flashy" websites but they were expensive to make and maintain.

Flash has already been left behind for all mainstream website purposes and here's why.

Google No Longer Shows Flash Websites

Let's start with the final nail in the coffin.  Flash was never a good option for SEO or search engine optimization. Flash content cannot be read the same way as content created using HTML. Search engines can only see your website title, meta tags and nothing else. It doesn't matter how flashy or fluid your site is if no one can find it organically.

Recently, Google announced it won't be showing Flash websites at all in search results.  So where as it hurt you before in search, now you can't be found at all.  So if you think Google is an important driver of your business, it's time to act now.

Flash Isn't Viewable on Mobile Devices

Smartphones have become a huge part of online activity, with 25% of all search queries coming from mobile devices and about half of local searches. Most mobile web browsers do not support Flash (Puffin being one of few, and not a lot of people use it). On top of not being able to be found in many searches, if someone does they most likely will not being able to view your website on their mobile phone or tablet.

24HoursofHappy is a Flash site with a 24 hour music video that cannot present on a mobile device, but does inform viewer's of the limitation.

Disneyworld's new Flash site promoting Fantasyland does not inform viewers of the mobile limitation and doesn't present the page at all.

But it's not that Flash simply isn't supported, it often takes more bandwidth and puts a higher demand on the smartphone or tablet, draining the battery faster.  That's why most devices don't support it.

Limited Page Navigation

Flash websites have one URL connected to all of their subsequent pages. Any visitor to a Flash website may navigate away from the homepage, but cannot bookmark or share that specific page with someone else because its URL is the same as the homepage.

If all your information is on one page then this wouldn't concern you, but if you have a specific product on another page then your visitor is limited to what they can share to just your homepage. This takes out simple word of mouth sharing over email, social or blogs.

And bookmarking a page would be impossible, meaning more work for your site visitors.

Flash is Dead for Local Businesses.  Now What?

Flash alienates web viewers who are trying to visit your website and see your service or find out more about your business - why make it so hard for them?  If you still have a Flash website, we recommend building a website that can be displayed on the web and mobile devices, that is highly SEOed and that is marketing-enabled to create conversion of visitors into customers.

There are many inexpensive solutions. 1and1 offers a website for $10 per month, although you get what you pay for. Our websites including professional design, SEO and updates are just $99 per month. If you have a Flash website, you certainly are losing more money than that.

Need help or a free consultation, we are happy to help!  Call us or email us and we will let you know more about your options.

The post Goodbye Google. Flash is Officially Dead for Local Businesses appeared first on LocalVox.

Imagine this: you have just persuaded your company's top 500 prospects to join a real-life networking group that your company owns. This group meets weekly, and discusses business topics in a very engaged way.

To stack things in your favour, the business topics are ones that you specialise in.

If you were this group's manager, you would build strong relationships with your prospects.  And by demonstrating expertise in the group's business topics, you would probably generate a large number of meetings and sales over time.

The problem is, it would be nearly impossible to create this type of group in real life.  Even if you could somehow persuade your top prospects to join your group, you would also have to cope with the enormous logistics and costs of running a group of this size on a weekly basis.

Enter social networks

With millions of members, and highly scalable platforms, social networks allow companies to create digital versions of real-life groups like the one described above.

The best example of this is a LinkedIn group.

LinkedIn groups allow companies to pool their prospects in one defined forum, and engage them with content and conversation. As a group manager, this gives you an opportunity to interact with your members and exploit the powerful engagement models of LinkedIn groups.

What are these engagement models?

  • Firstly, you can have a one-to-one conversation with any group member, simply by responding to one of their posted articles or existing replies, and
  • Secondly, each conversation you have with a member is broadcast to the entire group, via a group update on the members' LinkedIn news feeds. So the group can view each one-to-one conversation, which means one-to-many exposure for your brand.

Another key benefit is positioning your company and group managers as thought leaders. As group managers consistently demonstrate their experience in the group's theme, they emerge as subject matter experts in their field.

The engagement models of LinkedIn groups, and the ability to position oneself as a subject matter expert, helps to build the group manager's brand awareness and trust among group members. It also creates virtual relationships that resemble those in real life.

Group managers can then leverage these relationships to generate leads, in several ways. For example, by posting content that links back to their own company's website, converting group members into leads, or, by approaching members and asking them to meet in person, generating outbound leads. The latter has an especially high ratio of meeting requested to meeting secured.

The new lead generation paradigm 

Social networks, and LinkedIn groups in particular, have turned lead generation on its head. It used to be that the number of relationships you enjoyed was limited to the number of people you could meet. Now you can build hundreds - even thousands - of relationships with prospects before you even meet them, then leverage that trust by reaching out to prospects you do want to meet.

This new approach to networking is not only scalable; it can also shorten your sales cycles. After all, you are meeting prospects that already know and trust you. The relationship, albeit virtual, is already there. And their membership in your group qualifies their interest in what you offer.

Tips for success

The most important tip for building a successful LinkedIn group is this: define your target audience first. Who are your prospects?  And what are their core problems?

Once you identify these, your second most important task is naming your group. The secret lies in giving it a name that sounds as if it could address your prospect's core problems.

Some more tips:

  • Before you go live, make sure to post interesting articles and conversation starters in the group. This will impress your first batch of members (e.g. staff and business partners) and get the conversation going,
  • once you have built some initial activity, start inviting your business prospects to join the group. You can do this via LinkedIn paid media such as LinkedIn Ads, or Inmails which allow you to send personalised one-to-one invitations,
  • promote regular conversations around the group's topics, to grow discussion threads. For example, if one of your members posts an interesting article, jump in by responding with your own thoughts. Have a conversation with that member for the whole group to see then encourage other group members to jump in,
  • never sell or self-promote in your group. Instead, engage in 'social selling'. That is, provide immense value to your members via expert advice and information, without any expectation of return,
  • and finally, never allow spam or off-topic posts in your group. Members do notice and over time it will damage your group's reputation.

Remember, each of your group's members represents future business for your firm. So love them to death with the very best content, discussion, and friendship, and you will soon experience the business opportunities that LinkedIn groups provide.

This article was originally published at Marketing Magazine, republished with the consent of the author.

6 months ago I met with the Head of Digital at a major movie studio.  

He was recounting a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook in which he explained that they didn't need Facebook advertising.  

They had already built such massive audiences around their movie brands and their characters that all they had to do was coordinate posts across these to reach and saturate their audience on Facebook.  

It was an owned media channel so they didn't need for it to be paid.  

That's part of what made Facebook such an appetizing choice, and brands flocked to leverage it to communicate with their customers.

But, Now Facebook Wants It's Piece of Your Pie

News reports have been surfacing that Facebook is testing updates that would make your Fan Page posts seen by even less people, unless of course you pay their advertising fees to boost the reach of sponsored posts.  

Last year, there was a lot of fan fare made out of the algorithm change that reduces it from 12% on average to 6%.  It meant that if you had 100 followers, the average post would be seen by only 6 people instead of 12.     That doesn't seem like a lot.   But it's about to get worse.  A lot worse.

Recent reports are stipulating that a brand page's organic reach is going to drop even further from 6% to 1-2%.   Now you really have to pay to reach your own "Owned" audience.

On one hand, we all knew Facebook would become an advertising medium.  

Free services almost always end up charging brands to reach the audiences they aggregate.  

But at the same time, brands and media outlets are fuming.  

They have effectively paid and invested heavily in building an audience that they then have to pay again to send messaging to - effectively they feel Facebook is double dipping.

What Does This Mean For Social Media Advertising?

The question is what is a fair compromise and frankly, I don't have a good model for saying whether 12%, 6%, 2% or 1% is fair.  

In the end, Facebook will determine what's fair by maximizing revenue - making sure there is enough return for people to keep investing en masse and then making the paid rates manageable enough that there is a positive ROI.

In the meantime, what it means for brands is that they should be cautious of audiences they don't control.   Email is still great.  

There is no middle man and it's still the number one rated marketing channel in terms of ROI, returning $38 for every $1 spent.  

Organic search and your content footprint continue to deliver incremental value over time.  

That's why content marketing is so crucial.   You should continue to build your Facebook audience organically, but it is time to reconsider the value of a Like.  Is it worth the cost-per-acquisition plus the cost in reaching them?   Time to update that marketing ROI spreadsheet.

I do believe Facebook advertising does provide better audience targeting (geographic, demographic, retargeting, etc.) and in many cases is extremely cost-effective.

A Monetization Guide for Other Social Media Channels

A fellow marketer said to me, that's why Instagram and Twitter is great.   You can still message for free.   To that I respond, it's only a matter of time.  

Facebook bought Instagram and will run the same playbook, and Twitter's Dick Costolo and Adam Bain inevitably will as well.   They are running the same playbook.

So think about what you own in marketing.  What you really own.   Otherwise, you might be betrothed to a third party who owns your audience.

The post Your Facebook Reach Is About to Drop Considerably. Now What? appeared first on LocalVox.

LinkedIn is widely known as the professional social network. So, it would make sense for people to assume that it is largely for B2B companies. While it is true that LinkedIn is one of the most beneficial social networks when it comes to B2B, the Social Equity a brand can garner as a result of having a LinkedIn presence - whether it is B2B or B2C - is quite high.

Today, we aim to explain where the Social Equity of a LinkedIn presence is found, and how you can determine the value added to your business as a result of having both a personal and company page on the social network.

The Benefits of LinkedIn

To understand how we can derive Social Equity from LinkedIn, we first need to understand what the benefits of a LinkedIn presence are to our business.

As we noted above, LinkedIn is often perceived as the professional network. As such, it is an arena in which professionals actively seek out industry influencers, leaders and authority figures.

Therefore, it is one of the easiest niches in which to establish yourself as an industry-leader within your market. Social networks on the more general scale, like Facebook and Twitter, are mediums in which we can establish our brand as an authority with the general public, but for any company, be it B2C or B2B, LinkedIn is the best avenue through which we can build our credibility with members of our own industry.

On the other side of the spectrum, LinkedIn is an excellent network for seeking out the advice and tips of other leaders and professionals, and applying those bits of advice to our own strategies.

Though LinkedIn Answers was a great feature in which to do this before it was removed, LinkedIn Groups are still a powerful tool, and include higher engagement rates than almost any other feature on social media.

Contrary to many social networks, LinkedIn is a place where professionals are seeking out the opinions and inputs of others, and the element of self-promotion (not in its purest form, but close to it) is not only accepted, but in many cases encouraged.

So, how does this all add value to your business?

Social Equity Derived from LinkedIn

Having both a personal account and an active company page on LinkedIn can generate quite a bit of Social Equity for your brand. With a well-orchestrated strategy in place, we can quickly build our authority in a given field and begin driving referrals to both our personal pages and our websites. This holds true for both types of businesses.

Even as a B2C entity, we are still looking to build market authority, and LinkedIn is one way of doing that.

You have a retail store. You create a profile on LinkedIn, and begin sharing what you really know about running a successful retail location, or a successful e-commerce website.

By sharing your authentic expertise with your network, you will see your influence, as measured by your LinkedIn referral traffic begin to increase.

It is important to understand that in any industry, people want to associate themselves with the best. Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a retail-savvy basement blogger, industry leaders and influencers receive the most attention on a network like LinkedIn, and that translates to Social Equity.

The value added of a large professional and referral network is highly coveted.

Consider not only the calculated value of your business assets, but the value added of an extended network, an established industry leader at the helm of your company and your industry influence. All of this is capable through the strategic use of LinkedIn.

How are you using LinkedIn to generate Social Equity for your business? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

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

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

The first step to having an optimized Yelp profile is to claim your Yelp listing.

Once it's been claimed, be sure to use accurate categories for your business.

Below are some suggestions on how to set up your profile to expand your online reach.

  • Use photos! Have at least 5 photos, ideally from high resolution images
  • List your business hours
  • Be sure to list your current phone number and address
  • Provide an accurate and detailed business description, with search keywords throughout

1. What To Do Once Your Yelp Profile Has Been Optimized?

Once your Yelp profile has been optimized, businesses need to engage with the people leaving reviews, and that includes negative reviews too! People trust reviews, even online ones. 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 44% of customers base their decision after reading a review. It's key to thank positive reviews and encourage them to come back; while it's equally important to respond to negative reviews. Below are a few tips on how to handle a negative review. If you want to help customers, give them tips on how to avoid the Yelp review filter.

2. How to Respond to Yelp Reviews (Even Negative Ones)

Yelp Court Ruling Consumers33% of negative reviews turn positive when you respond to them, so your social reputation is within your control as long as you have a social reputation monitoring tool so you know what people are saying about you.

It's critical to remember that the people leaving reviews are real people and often vocal and opinionated. Acknowledge the negative post and the issue they describe and ask the person to contact you offline. Be very polite and be sure to use proper grammar. If the person has a legitimate gripe, address the comment and provide a path to resolution offline. The last thing you want to do is go back and forth in front of the entire online world.

The absolute worst thing to do is to respond and defend your business online, while you're still angry; this can lead to bad press and even make national news. Remember, ignoring a negative review is the second worst thing a business can do.

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

A tale of a man, a woman, their plumbing, two countries and Google.
by Frances Leary

I'll be the first to admit that dishing out Google compliments is not something I endeavor to do on a regular basis. In fact, to the contrary, I am typically so perturbed with Google's latest algorithm change that I'm rather on the quick side to voice my disdain for the organization.

Well, this time I'll have to eat my words.

It all began with a late-night kiss goodbye as I bid my husband farewell and he set off on his business trip to Athens, Greece. A few days later, the kiss was followed-up by a well run dry, an overworked water pump and a malfunctioning valve shut-off device.

I'll spare you the plumbing details. Suffice to say that we had no water.

Now, I want to preface this all by saying that I had been well-prepared for every issue that we had anticipated might happen. And I tried everything I knew to try. Obviously we hadn't been prepared for this specific problem.

By process of elimination, it seemed the culprit was likely the snazzy electronic valve control that always seems to cause problems when my husband is away. Go figure.

So, instead of calling a plumber, I Google Hangout-ed (is that a verb?) my husband. Yes, while he was in Greece. And he Google Phoned me back...from Greece...to my cell phone in Canada.

We took care of the first part over the Google phone...only to be interrupted by his trip to the Temple of Poseidon. Poor thing, I know. On his return, we spent nearly an hour on Google Hangout so I could use the camera to show him valves, etc. and so he could listen to the variety of whirring sounds the pump was or wasn't making at any given time.

With the help of a variety of wrenches large and small, we got the water running again. Whew! Thanks to my husband, my coordinated use of hand tools and Google...we had running water again. And at NO cost to us.

So, I'll give Google its due. Google Phone's call reception was clear and had only a bit of a delay, and my husband was able to call my direct phone number. The video quality of Google Hangout was also excellent, and only slightly delayed. What a truly fantastic service...no cost to connect from one side of the world to the other.

And that, my friends, is how Google fixed my plumbing.

The End.

A couple of years ago, on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv, a well known Canadian franchisor attorney posed this question to the group:

"A large franchisor has asked me to obtain recommendations of software used with success by other large franchisors to electronically manage franchise agreements and other documents, and to keep track of renewal dates, notice dates, lease dates, etc...", 

My response to this questions needs to be longer and may offend the promotional rules that the ABA enforces, so I will publish it here and not as a response on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv.

And no offense to franchise attorneys, as some of my closest friends are attorneys who practice franchise law, however I've found few that can answer this question - as it is largely an operational one.

With over 20 years of franchise operational expertise, I have run across just about every problem a database could solve.

The secret about database software is that many franchisors who have implemented a solution aren't using what they've built.

They may be just using certain modules or features so that the franchisor CEO may proclaim the success of automating his enterprise.  

 A. What does the franchisor really need database software for?

There are two reasons a franchisor uses database software:

a) is to manage new franchise sales, and;

b) to ensure communications are delivered to franchisees.

However, the selling of franchises is the primary objective.  

There are good reasons to automate a franchisor's processes, procedures and information.

Unfortunately, most franchisors are not organized well enough.  They will have serious challenges in figuring out how to implement an database solution.

A database solution can't magically transform a franchisor's sales process, document management, operations support, ongoing training, local and national marketing programming, and social media if the franchisor doesn't already have those functions organized and working smoothly.

A database solution can't make your people smart.  You may not like what you discover about your team and how they perform their work as you implement your database solution.

The processes you think are in place and guiding your business  may be written down or in a work flow chart defining the critical path, but the reality of what actually happens may be different - in a startling way.

And if you choose to not carefully consider and inspect, you will be automating garbage.

B. So what's a franchisor to do?

·         Well first stop asking your franchise attorney for technology advice.

·         Look internally, audit and document top-down your business practices.

·         Do ask your franchise attorney about compliance and your franchising practices.

·         Determine what you want as a franchisor out of database automation.

·         Thoughtfully involve your franchisees in the process.

·         Think about what you can do now with what you have today in preparation for eventual automation.

·         Don't be fooled by the siren call of franchisor nirvana by database providers.

Here is one, of many, simple exercise: how do you document the receipts of your franchise disclosure documents?  Can you instantly find the receipts of all the franchise disclosure documents and match them up with the execution of the franchise contract? Would your franchise attorney be happy with this record?  

If the answer is no, you need to work on your internal audits before thinking about a database solution.  If you passed this simple exercise, then I might be able to assist you in picking the appropriate tasks to automate with a database solution.  

Connect with on Linkedin if you want to discuss more.

Recently, I tweeted out to one of members, Frances Leary, that our main social media goal was to have the most interesting groups about Franchising in LinkedIn.

Franchise-Info is a member supported community, which means although we aggregate our member's articles, we never have any display advertising on the website.

Because Franchise-Info is supported by its members, this gives Joe and I the time to actively moderate all our 30+ Franchise LinkedIn groups.

I want to show the difference active moderation makes - the direct result of your support.

Joe and I think of the LinkedIn groups as networking opportunities for everyone.  A chance to chat, sometimes seriously, about important franchise issues.  

We don't want our groups to become the Craigslist for B2B marketers - who throw their blog into the group hoping that someone will go to their website.  

While we recognize that people market their services on LinkedIn, we also want to promote dialogue & discussion.  Thus, our tag line: Creating Intelligent Conversations in Franchising.

Joe and I can afford to spend the time in our groups doing this precisely because Franchise-Info is member supported.  Joe and I thank-you for that support.

Here is the value of moderation - less pitching and more conversation.

Look at the numbers.

Franchise Owners/Franchisee is our top group right now - with close to 10,000 members.

Here is last week's ratio of comments/discussions & promotions/discussions.

Last week 69 people wanted to post in this group.  

Apart from our member posts, 10, we let in only 5 others.  The 15 posts generated 21 comments.  

And each one of those comments triggers a special LinkedIn action - LinkedIn emails out the thread to everyone in the Group.  

So active posts are seen by the 10,000 members over and over - depending on how many comments the discussion creates.

Owner 1.png

Now consider the 5 groups with more members than the Franchise Owner/Franchisee group.

Other.png

 

1st Group- Franchise Networking

Let's take it from the top and start with Franchise Networking.  

Ok, despite their 25,000+ members, they had 63 people wanting to post a discussion.  

They let 54 in, which generated 2 comments. And you can see that -because the orange dominates the graph- this is usual.  

Franchise Networking is drop-off -people drop off their posts, never to return to talk and engage people.

Networking.png

3rd Group= International Franchise Association

What about the International Franchise Association's LinkedIn group?  Surely that must be much better - they have an entire staff to throw at the problem.  

In fact, they are worse.  Their orange line dominates the blue line - nobody is discussing any of the articles in the group.

Again, it is the Craigslist of B2B marketing.  People throw articles at you and yell: "Read my Stuff!"  But nobody is listening.

IFA 2.png

The numbers for Franchise Professionals, Franchise Executives and the Franchising Industry are similar.  

None of these LinkedIn groups are member-supported.

There may be many reasons other than discussion to join a group.  

But, when you want your discussion to be read, thought about, and commented on there is simply no better groups than the Franchise-Info LinkedIn groups.  And it is all because of your support -which Joe and I thank you for.

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

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

But this expert delivers on promises made.

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

All experts face the same strategic problem.

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

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

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

"Neither blame of praise yourself" Plutarch

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

Quiet is nice.

Especially if you hate to hear the cash register ring.

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

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

How can you do this?

Hint: Use Introductions in a Strategic Manner

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

Your firm has people calling the firm looking for help.

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

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

Compare:

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

With:

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

Or compare:

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

With:

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

You have all those impressive credentials hanging on your office wall

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

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

Oh, and thank Jane Austen for the tip.

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

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

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

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

What's Google Up to Now?

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

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

About Google My Business

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

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

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

Pros of Google My Business

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

Cons of Google My Business

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

Other Changes to Google My Business

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

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

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

The post Understanding Google My Business appeared first on LocalVox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LinkedIn Wants You!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many customers need education or training before you can sell them your product or service.

And, they need to see themselves using your product or service before you can sell to them. The education or training of your customers or probable customers is done through a nurturing program.

Top of Mind Programs

A nurturing program can have a modest goal - to remain top of mind with a group of customers who will be in the market for your services or products.

From 1963-1977, Joe Girard sold an amazing number of cars-- 13,001 in his 15 year career! More than 6 cars a day, day in day out, for 15 years. 6 cars a day is more than many entire dealerships do.

How did he do it? He hand wrote and mailed greeting cards to everyone on his list. Regularly, once a month, if you were on Joe's list, you got a greeting card from Joe saying: "I Like You."

Joe Girard was simply reminding people that when it came to buying a car, Joe was thinking about them. Not a long or overcomplicated message. Not a message about cars, either. Just a reminder.

Effective, in part, because it was so time consuming. Joe's list at the end of his career was over 16,000 names & addresses. Girard's messages, all hand written, all sent by mail, like clockwork each month.

Shows a certain doggedness or relentlessness, don't you think? Probably trust a guy like that to get you a good deal.

Nurturing Programs

There is nothing wrong remaining top of mind for the right message. Indeed, you have to start with a Top of Mind program, or set of tools.

But, more modern nurturing programs go beyond just being top of mind. They are designed to establish you as an expert in the eyes of your customers, prospects and a "community of interest".

Modern nurturing programs aslso try to expand the reach of your message from customers to people just like your customers - but who aren't sold, yet.

Business Example - Premier Automotive - Standard Use of Customer List

For example, suppose you are an Premier Automotive trying to build out your business by sending out a coupon monthly for a discounted oil change.


oil 2.pngThere are (4) things wrong with this strategy.

1. You are building customer traffic, but not retaining enough of them to make up for the price of the discounts

2. You are training your current customers to be disloyal or shop solely on price.

3. You are not reaching past your customer list - nobody is going to share their coupon into their own network.

4. Finally, being top of mind for the annnoying message - get an oil change- is not where you want to be.

Nurturing Message

On the other hand, you could try this type message - send this to your current customer list, with the offer on the left hand side.

This message is intended to establish you as an authority beyond their own customer list.


When should you buy more more expensive oil for your car?

oil change.png

Science has confirmed what many NASCAR teams already know: synthetic oils last longer, provide better protection and form less sludge and deposits.

The protection or greater performance was much greater in two situations:

1. Start-ups. or;
2. Extended highway driving.

But, when does it make sense for you to buy the more expensive synthetic oil because it lasts longer, provides better performance?

Well, a simple calculation is that if you plan to drive your current car for more than 100,000 miles, it makes sense to purchase synthetic oil, now.

And, at Premier Automotive, we have both types of oil and we would be happy to to explain in more detail to you in person which oil is right for you. ( A hyper link to a longer & objective scientific discussion.)

This nurturing message is more likely to convert casual customers into loyal & interested customers than simply sending a discount coupon on a monthly basis.

Which do you think will work better? Discount alone or discount with objective story about when to change your oil - especially if the story is sent out on a timely basis?

(Source Idea: - Tom's Sant Language of Success pages 189-190)

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]

That is a question we should all be asking.

Then we should decide if the answer matters to us or our business. 

If you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shops and a Subway franchisee is going to several of your locations buying and tasting your sandwiches, there isn't much you can do about that.

But if you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shop and Subway's HR person calls your best development person, or contacts them through LinkedIn for an interview, you need to ponder that dilemma and decide if and how to combat it.

We are in an age of lots of connection!  Do you have employees sending out resumes from the office computer? You can track that. Are they posting their resume on LinkedIn with notes such as "Looking for Job Opportunities"?  That's another matter. 

There is always the standard non-compete agreement which you can ask an employee to sign upon hiring.  Make sure the agreement is legal and protects you from the things that matter.  No need to put a bunch of items in that you can't enforce and do not matter to you and your business. 

I've always found in my thirty years in franchise PR, that an employee that is gone should be gone.  In other words, even if they seemed ideal, if they can be stolen, they shouldn't be in your shop. If you've let them go and they end up at a competitor, well that's his/her new headache, and no longer yours.  You know why you terminated them. Let your competitor find out too!

Then there is the matter in our case of clients stealing employees. I use the word "steal" but can they really do that? It's a human being.  Is it ethical? No   Is it legal? Yes, unless you have a non-compete agreement worded properly that forbids that action.  Even then you can ask for no more than a year-long reprieve. The upside? You got rid of a client with questionable character and an easily bought, disloyal employee.

My favorite is when you have been working with a company for years; they see how well you are doing and decide to go into your industry, in our case PR, by shopping your business or your competitors' for people.  

This scenario teaches you so much about people, loyalty and business that any possible damage that can be done by the occurrence is totally exceeded by the brilliant lessons you learn from it.

In this scenario, they likely end up with all the industry misfits that couldn't make it at the competitors' shops and really, when you look at all the pieces together, what's missing is the burning passion and talent that drove you to start your own PR firm, franchise service business, restaurant chain, consulting business, whatever you have created that built a name for you to begin with.

In other words, don't sweat it. The joke's on your competitor!

Of course we get a ton of resumes for interns starting around March of every year.  We could use this as a cheap way to get help, but since you get what you pay for, I have never hired free interns in 32 years of business.  

Here's the Do's and Don'ts of hiring and using interns for PR.

DO:

  • Look at every resume. If one has typos - delete. Just because they are likely temporary workers does not mean you can be careless giving someone access to proprietary or internal files.

  • Typically hire a journalism student. You do not want an intern making grammatical or spelling errors in emails or in any press materials. Today's young people are NOT learning proper grammar at school-they are learning improper grammar from the Kardashians. 

  • If you are looking to hire someone full time, start with a senior as an intern.  If the person works out well for the summer, you can always offer them a full time position in the fall.

  • Get references. They will usually have a professor at the very least as a reference. Ask the reference (s) real questions about character along with skills.

  • Teach them what they need to know for the amount of time they will be there. It's very easy to "overteach" and then you become the PR Academy and waste time that can hurt your business.

  • Tell them to keep their cell phones in the drawer for the day. This is another generational thing. They HAVE to check their phones all the time.

  • Give them one project at a time so there is a beginning and an end. This is good for them and for you.

  • Absolutely check and edit all of their writing.  While they may be hired for this exact purpose, we use 3 sets of eyes on all press materials here at SandersonPR.  Even though everyone here has a journalism degree, writing is a labor intensive activity and it is easy to overlook your own errors.

     

DON'T 

  • Bother showing them things they won't be working on. Not only does it waste your time as stated above, it redirects the intern's focus. Too much info to assimilate can be a problem. 

  • Let them answer your phones. By the time you teach them and they learn how to do it properly they will likely be leaving. The average internship is 60 days.  Since the person answering your phones is often the first one to make an impression on people you will want a real pro doing that.

  • Overwhelm them with learning everyone's name and job the first day they start.

  • Give them too much responsibility because you are overloaded.  It will come back to bite you in the butt.

  • Give them a key. Easy to forget to retrieve when they go.

  • Seat them near the office gossip.  

  • Forget to give them an evaluation at the end of their internship along with a personal talk indicating their strengths.  It's just a nice thing to do.

     

There is a sea of social media for local businesses to navigate these days, and while Google joined the choppy waters some time ago, only recently did it become a force to be reckoned with in the social media world. Though it may be tempting to brush off Google's foray into social media as just another outlet, don't; the impact of Google Plus on local businesses can be huge.

Google Plus Gets Your Business on the Map

If you want your business to show up in the map results on Google, then Google Plus is a must. Because such a high percentage of local business (more than 85%) comes from online search, this map ranking is a huge benefit. (If you already have a Google Places page, great. Go ahead and setup a Google Plus page also. At some point in the near future they will be merged, and you'll be prepared for that to happen.)

Hint: If your business or franchise has multiple locations, setup a Google Plus page for each location.

When you setup your Google Plus page, it's crucial to select "Local Business" as your type of page. Complete all the necessary information, including location, website and contact information. Then, make sure you verify your page. This must be happened in order for your page to rank in Google listings.

Another important strategy you can use to boost your page rankings is to use keywords that your audience will be searching.

For example, if you are a real estate agency, do not simply put your agency name (ex: Coldwell Banker). Instead use also a keyword phrase such as Real Estate in your name. It is also important to use these keywords in your categories, if possible, as well as in your page description. All of these things will help Google identify your business and rank it for the proper keywords.

Google Plus Helps You Show Up on Local Searches

In addition to showing up in map listings, active Google Plus activity can help increase your general website's ranking for keyword searches on Google. In order to help expedite this process, in addition to using keywords as specified above, it is important to post consistently on Google Plus. What does that consist of? Largely, it means posting content to your Google Plus page that links back to your site and making posts that use keywords.

Receiving reviews from Google users can also help increase your rankings because it increases your credibility as a respected resource. Consider asking your clients or customers to leave a review on your page. You may be surprised how happy they are to do just that.

Engaging with other users on Google Plus is also beneficial. However, most audiences aren't active on Google Plus, so this will not really increase your interaction with your potential clients and customers (as it would potentially on other platforms like Facebook or Twitter). This engagement will, however, help increase your Google rankings over time.

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]

If You Would Like Frances Leary's Help in Setting Up Google Plus for Your Franchise, please Contact Wired Flare & click here.

Twitter is often overlooked by local businesses because local businesses are already struggling to keep up with all the local marketing channels out there.  

At best it's a great social media channel with research that shows that Twitter is more effective than even Facebook in driving same day sales.  That's a great way to drive specials, react to slow days or promote new products.  

At worst, Twitter is yet another social media channel that when used ineffectively can be time consuming.  I think the social media infographic below highlights a lot of the positives of Twitter such as:

  • Customer service and communication

  • Leveraging followers to encourage positive Yelp and Google Places reviews

  • Influencer outreach

  • Cross-promotion of existing content and messaging

Platforms such as LocalCast, Hootsuite, Sprout Social can make publishing to Twitter part of the routine.  Just a checkbox that you click when you update your other social media services. You can manage Twitter in less than 5 minutes per day and that is worthwhile.

Now overall, the stats below strain credibility to me.  94% of Twitter users say it's their most valuable social media channel? I doubt that. 89% of those who have done Twitter advertising think it was a success?

Again, my anecdotal evidence suggests more conservative numbers.  

Of course these are Twitter's own stats, but the content is worth taking a look.

twitter-local-small-business-marketing-tool.jpg

Keeping up with the changes in social media and marketing are keys in developing a strong B2B public relations strategy

And, with the latest new feature from Twitter, it's vital that businesses realize how important it is to be part of the online conversation, before they are muted from the discussion.

Media-Controls-Mute-icon.pngLast week, Twitter announced a new mute feature for iPhone, web, and Android users.  This new feature gives users the ability to mute or "silence" other users content from appearing their feed.  The mute feature also is a helpful option when a user goes on a posting spree about sporting events, concerts, TV shows, or rants in general.

According to Twitter in a blog, muting a user on Twitter means their tweets and retweets will no longer be visible in your home timeline, and you will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from that user.

The muted user will still be able to favorite, reply to and retweet your Tweets; you just won't see any of that activity in your timeline. The muted user will not know that you've muted him/her, and of course you can unmute at any time.

The feature began rolling out last week, and will be available to all iPhone, Android, and Twitter.com users in the next few weeks.  Twitter provides the following guidelines for users to mute others:

•    To mute a user from a Tweet on an iOS or Android device or on Twitter for web, tap more and then mute @username.
•    To mute someone from his/her profile page, tap the gear icon on the page and choose mute @username.

At Ripley PR, we believe in the importance of integrating marketing and social media engagement into a public relations campaign. Knowing how to stay engaged in the online conversation and reach your customers without overwhelming or irritating them is key.

With new advancements in features, like the mute button on Twitter, it's vital to ensure your business stays part of the discussion by interacting the right way on social media. 

Contact the experts at Ripley PR to learn how to make the best use of your time on social media and fit it into all of your public relations initiatives in a positive way.

Most people write well enough to convey interesting ideas. You probably do.

And, this is a bit of a problem for you when you compete for attention on Linkedin.

You could spend time creating your own LinkedIn network, one quality connection at a time. Since 2005, I have grown my LinkedIn networks to over 6,000 connections. So, I can get a bit of attention for my ideas or you ideas when I share them.

But, now with the LinkedIn Sponsored Update advertising program, I could have an audience as big as Sir Richard Branson. All I would have to do is pay for LinkedIn to sponsor my updates.

How does the LinkedIn Sponsored Update program work?

Here is an overview of how Linkedin thinks you should be marketing on its platform. (You might have to refresh your screen, Slideshare is a bit wonky.)

Ok, but let's dive into the details a bit more.

Once you share an update into the LinkedIn update stream of news, it is seen by some of your first connections.

LinkedIn says that you can expect that 20% of your first connections will get your article in their stream of news or updates. These are impressions.

Fewer than 20% will actually click on the headline and view it. These are views.

Even fewer will view the headline, and then read your article to the end. These are readers.

Finally, some of these readers will actually do what you want them to do - follow your call to action at the end of the article. These are leads.

For example, my call to action at the end of this article will be to ask people to sign up for our newsletter on LinkedIn Tips for Authors. And this article will have to get quite a few impressions from the Franchise-Info network to get a few leads. We estimate that you need around 10,000 impressions to get 20-40 readers. That is a lot of impresions, especially when the average impression for an update is below 50 views.

But, the Sponsored Update program allows you to buy those impressions, instead of only earning attention from your network of 1st connections.

Think of Sponsored Updates as a PR program for the LinkedIn platform. Instead of getting your article placed in a magazine, newspaper or press release, a Sponsored Update gets your message directly to a decision-maker.

If you are interested in knowing more about the basics of setting up a Sponsored Update advertising program, Jeff Haden has a good review of the Sponsored Update Program.

And, If you thought this was useful or interesting, then you should sign up for the Franchise Info Newsletter on Tips for LinkedIn Authors. Just click here and Mail Chimp will take over. Thanks.

Oh, and we never give out your email.

As a small business, doing all your online marketing by yourself can be very challenging. You must build and market your website to build your audience, send out email newsletters to engage customers, and utilize social media to increase awareness.

Having just a company website isn't enough to get found through the search engines. The "if you build it, they will come" mantra doesn't apply for most small business websites.

Your potential local customers are constantly conducting quick searches on online directories. These directories not only have substantial brands/marketing budgets to drive traffic, but they also rank well in the search engines for your most important search terms. So even if you can't get your website ranked high for a specific search term, you can appear on the local directory site that ranks for that term.

Listing your business on these 5 local online directories can really help you generate more customers:

1. Google Places for Business

Since over 80% of searches are conducted through Google, you need to make this directory number one on your list. Your Google Places page allows you to control what information Google has and presents to searchers about your business. You can fill in your Places page with information like a description, images, hours of operation, and contact information.

2. Bing Places for Business

Bing Places for Business is another local directory that gives you all the tools you need to easily and quickly manage your reputation and find local customers online. Enrich your business listing with compelling online content like photos, specialties and services on the second largest search engine.

3. Yahoo! Local Listing

 A free Yahoo Basic Listing helps customers get your business's contact information, including address, phone number, and URL. Simple to create and easy to manage, the Yahoo Basic Listing can be a first step if you're just starting out online. They also offer paid plans that give you additional benefits like enhanced listings, special offers, and analytics.

4. Yelp

Best for word-of-mouth, Yelp Business Accounts offer a suite of free tools for local businesses. Communicate with your customers - privately and publicly. Track how many people view your business page. Add photos, a detailed business description, up-to-date information, history, and specialties. Recommend other local businesses and build your audience with co-marketing.

5. Manta

Manta's free business directory is one of the fastest growing small business resources in the United States. Not only is it a local directory for you to claim and promote your business, but Manta also centers around connecting its community of small businesses with one another, perfect for expanding reach. They also offer a paid plan with additional features and benefits.

Other great local directory listing opportunities

Don't forget to pick the low-hanging social media fruit of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare. There are more businesses utilizing these outlets than ever before so make sure you're competing on them locally!

Getting listed on these local directories is a great way to maximize your online marketing results and expose your business to more potential local customers, but you should not stop there.

Make sure you're also building co-marketing partnerships to build relevant inbound links to your website and optimizing your pages with your most valuable keywords using a tool like BoostSuite.

Have you ever listed your website on any of these local directories? What was your experience with them? Do you recommend any others that weren't included in this article? Let's hear them in the comments! Thanks!

The post The Five Best Local Directories To Get Listed In To Maximize Results appeared first on LocalVox.

LinkedIn wants to be part of your breakfast.  That part where you open your tablet, review the LinkedIn stream of news &  read some brand advertorials.  Your LinkedIn stream of news has more noise than the WSJ, but you can take steps to edit out the noise & read things are informative and congenial.

And advertorial in a print magazine was deliberately made to look similar to the editorial page.  Although titled "Advertisement", some readers who regularly skipped display ads were interested in the conversational format of the advertorial.  So, they read & some bought.  The newspaper made money matching a supplier with a customer.

LinkedIn is doing something similar.  It is allowing franchise brands to post their ads directly into your LinkedIn update stream, even if you aren't currently following the company. 

These sponsored updates are different from the LinkedIn paid ads which you see around the edge of the LinkedIn stream, usually in widget  on the right hand side.

Since the sponsored update programs was announced a couple of weeks ago, Joe and I have been trying some of the features out -using our company page.

First, buying impressions is relatively simple.  You figure out what a target audience is, fill in a few buttons and then you are presented with screen that looks like this.

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Ok, this campaign would cost us $23.74 for each 1,000 impressions we want to buy.  We are targeting the 104k LinkedIn users in Restaurant or Hospitality industry, Senior Director or VP and above.  We are also targeting it to the people who are in business development, sales or marketing.  So, 10K impressions would cost $237.40.  

But, before we tried to buy the interest or impressions, Joe and I thought we should experiment.  How many impressions could we get using the company page?  

Well, we tried out some ideas and look what happened!  

On May 5th, were able generate, just with 2 articles, 29,031 impressions.  This would have cost us $689.19

But, we generated these impressions organically - as you can see we have gone from essentially zero impressions to almost 30,000 impressions in less than a couple of weeks. 

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Now here is thing. Both articles that we tested were advertorials or sponsored updates.  We were using articles that were asking people for a sale.  People read them, just like you are doing now.  Because of their conversational tone.

When your brand needs to make an impression in LinkedIn, and you want your brand to go from 0 to 30k, or more, send me an email in LinkedIn.  Use the title "I want to make an impression."

Or, you can just sign up for more of our ideas about how to publish on LinkedIn. Just click here and Mail Chimp will take over.  Thanks.   Oh, and we never give out your email.

 

Have you heard recent rumors that Google Plus is going away, due to the recent departure of Google's senior vice president Vic Gundotra?

The search engine giant introduced this social network in 2011, in hopes that it would be a competitor for Facebook.

To build users, Google Plus was integrated across Google's platforms, including YouTube, Gmail, and Hangouts.

It's never had quite the reach of Facebook, but many businesses have created company pages where they can make posts and engage with customers.

At Ripley PR, we have recommended Google Plus pages as a tool within clients' B2B public relations and social media marketing strategies. But is it still a valid use of time and resources?

For basic social media interactions with customers going forward, Google Plus may not be the best option for most companies.

Right now, with the shuffling of more than 1,000 Google employees from the Google Plus team to other parts of the company, it remains to be seen what the future of the social network is. Most analysts believe that it will likely become a platform to link the whole network of Google products.

Along with that, Google Plus may evolve to target more people in the business sector, and there may be opportunities for advertising on the platform in the future. For that reason, we believe it is still worthwhile for our clients to have a Google Plus company page.

We will continue to watch the evolution of this product, and assess how it can help meet the needs of our PR and marketing clients now and in the future.

Recently I met with a franchisor that is quickly growing the franchise across Canada. What I discovered about the company's social media surprised me...not because I haven't seen evidence of it before with other franchises but because I've never met a franchisor state it quite as plainly as this one did.

The franchise had a Facebook page and a Twitter profile that were relatively well-maintained.

It also had a slew of Google Plus pages, none of which were optimized or being utilized.

When I opened discussions into ways they could expand the audience of their (what I assumed to be) corporate brand pages, they said they weren't looking to grow them as representative of the entire brand because they only represented the one corporate location and not the franchise overall.

Hmmm...

Then when I asked about the lack of franchisee pages and profiles, they said that was up to the franchisees.

They didn't care what the franchisees did with their social profiles because it was "their business."

I was stumped...not that a franchisor hadn't put a plan into place to support franchisee social media growth but that a franchisor actually said it wasn't their business.

Franchisee social media not a part of the franchisor's business? To say this is short-sighted is an understatement.

What this franchisor hasn't come to understand (and what I did try to impress upon them during our meeting) is that every bit of franchise exposure, be it local, corporate, or lack-there-of, impacts the franchise overall and each local franchise.

The strength of the corporate brand presence impacts the franchisees, and the strength of each franchisee on social channels impacts every other franchisee and the corporate brand overall.

Why? Because social networking is both hyper-local and global at the same time, and online conversations are public and pervasive.

This franchisor took an entirely hands-off approach to franchisee social media marketing. While this may, at first glance, appear to be exactly what prospective franchisees may want, consider what this really means (given that you know you absolutely, positively must be on social media, of course):

  1. Setting up social media pages and profiles will be up to you.

  2. Designing graphics to fit properly and capture audience attention will be up to you.

  3. Getting your audience to like and follow your pages will be up to you.

  4. Developing and posting consistent, creative content will be up to you.

  5. Paying for relevant social promotions will be up to you.

  6. Providing customer service will be up to you.

  7. Responding to comments and other interaction will be up to you.

  8. Doing all this while you do everything else involved in running and growing your franchise will be up to you.

  9. And if you don't do it, your audience may not find you and your customer base may not grow.

Now I'm not advocating that you should buy into a franchise where you have zero input regarding your social media communication...unless that is what you want.

I'm simply asking that you consider the impact of having a franchisor that leaves social media entirely up to you because "it's your business."

As a franchisee, you are buying into a franchise because it has a duplicatable, working system that you can put into place.

It's a well-oiled machine with the training and support you need in order to implement it in your local market.

Shouldn't there be a system for social media as well?

You decide. It's up to you.

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

For the next week, we are putting a big focus on thinking about the Retail Industry given our Retail 150 Local Marketing Report Card research.  

When watching 60 Minutes, you might think that in a couple of years most retail sales would all occur online and be delivered by airborne drone.  

Instead, the industry data paints a much different picture.

1) 91% of retail is still local

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2) The eCommerce growth rate is slowing down.

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3) Amazon is the key winner and quickly outmaneuvering search engines like Google with value added customer services like Amazon Prime and ratings and reviews.

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4) But online is more important than ever - but to in-store retail sales.  About half of in-store sales is influenced online and that percentage is growing every year.

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5) And, retailers are doing a poor job of using local online marketing to drive in-store sales.

This creates a mandate for most retailers to effectively use local online marketing to drive in-store sales.  

Gartner released research that showed that large, multi-location retailers that integrate local marketing processes will increase revenue 10-15% by 2015.  That's a billion opportunity for many of them.  

Sadly, most large retailers are failing in the 4 Pillars of Local Marketing according to our recent Retail 150 Annual Local Marketing Report Card.  

The average grade was just 3.58 out of 10 and local social ... well, no one is really doing it well.

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Conclusion

So retail is still local, but the web is actually much more important than retailers realize - not to eCommerce revenues but in-store revenues.  

Given the failings of the industry to adapt to leverage local online marketing, now is actually the time to leap frog the competition and quickly drive differentiation and top line revenue with a high degree of ROI.

 

Download the Retail 150 Local Marketing Report Card

 

 

 

A professional negotiator and mediator asked me to take a look at his LinkedIn profile & make suggestions.

The guy has a terrific CV and resume. Very impressive.

But, does his LinkedIn profile attract or repel potential clients?

There are many LinkedIn experts who will say that they can help you. Maybe they can. I know that some of them will certainly charge you a lot of money.

The Science of Decision Making & The 3 Filters of Choice

It does make sense to know something about the science of choice - what people do when they have to make a decision?

Well, when people have to make a decision, they typically do something the first things very fast, first. Which allows them to form a conclusion quickly, and have a decision made. Without worrying too much about it.

Here is the basic decision process many people would go through to see if you were good at something that they were interested in.

They would scan your summary profile & use the following rules or filters and in this order.

Are You Good At Anything.png

Filter 1. You aren't good at anything --Leave and find someone else to help. Many people don't have a clear statement in their summary what they are good at & why the reader should believe it.

Here is my solution to that problem.

In the first line of my summary, I write:

Specialties: Strategic Analysis for Franchises and Negotiation, see Endorsements below.

And what does my Skill and Endorsements section look like?

Endorsements.png

Ok, you see the LinkedIn community thinks I am good at Franchising, Strategy and Negotiation.

There are a number of ways of getting around the first fillter.

But, if you have a good number of endorsements, then I would use this technique. Because it says to the reader - hey, a lot of people think I am good at some things -the sort of things you might want to buy, my dear reader.

Filter 2. Yes, you are good at something, but what you are good at isn't what I need.

This might very well be true. You don't need to be contacted by people who cannot really use your skills properly.

So, if someone asked me what you did, I might say something like this:

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"Michael solves complex problems in franchising systems. Problems which demand the coordination, cooperation of people who sometimes don't talk, don't like, or actively dislike each other."

Then I might give them a link to this article on Creating the Modern Franchise Owner's Group.

Or I might go on an talk about the general problem of coordination in groups.

Or I might do both.

Now, Joe has more straightforward solution to this filter problem. In his summary, he is able to state with authority that he has 20+ years of franchise development, starting with fixing the sales process at a major QSR. As process still in place.

So, if the reader is interested in franchise sales or development, it is pretty clear that Joe has seen it all.

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Filter 3. Yes, you are good at something that I need, but I don't need it now.

Ok, this is the hardest filter to make it through.

Why? Because customers always buy on their own schedules and not your timetable. So our solution to this problem is get people to sign up for our Tips newsletters, just like the one of the bottom of this page. We intend to stay Top-of-Mind with them until they need to buy from us.

Only profiles which make it through these 3 filters will magically attract clients. People who will call you and ask if you can help them.

And for getting this far, here is final neat tip.

Knowing how people like to jump to the end, I would include something like this in the last section.

Advice for Contacting Michael

-Hey you made it to the bottom of the page. Good for you!

-If you are a franchisor, Joe Caruso and I can help you with your sales process.

-If you are supplier, Joe Caruso and I can help you with establishing a vendor program.

-If you a franchise owner/franchisee, Joe Caruso and I can help you with establishing a franchisee's owners group.

-If you are anyone else, let me know what you think I could help you with.

Any questions?

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]

Social media giant Facebook is constantly updating its algorithm to keep users happy. The latest change is a crackdown on "like-baiting."

Even if you don't recognize the term, you've seen this technique used by a lot of marketers: brands will often post a picture or video that's unrelated to their business or original content, and ask fans to like, share, or comment on it. The idea is to make such posts appear in users' News Feeds, so that their friends see the business page, and hopefully, start following it.

For a social media marketer, this technique sounds like a dream - it's an easy way to get more likes on your page and hopefully drive more people to your website.

At Ripley PR, we encourage strong social media engagement to our clients as a part of their B2B public relations strategies, and there's no doubt that effective social media marketing can drive website traffic and increase your business.

So why is "like-baiting" such a problem?

Often, it's used in a way that Facebook sees as spamming users.

According to the site, "like-baiting" posts are those that explicitly request likes, shares, and comments.

Many times, these posts are frequently-circulated photos, videos, or memes, and end up cluttering users' News Feeds.

Facebook users have complained about the number of unwanted posts that make it harder to see the content from friends and family - and even brands - that they really want to see.

What, then, does the crackdown on asking for likes and shares mean for social media marketers? Well, there's no doubt that it can be used in legitimate ways. Some brands use the technique to ask followers to help them win a contest or award; others use it as a way to track followers and offer a prize or discount in return. There is value in running such a campaign.

However, the crackdown means that most companies will probably have to find more creative ways to encourage this engagement. It doesn't mean that companies are discouraged from social media marketing; to the contrary, Facebook wants brands to continue using its site for that purpose. But companies will have to begin placing more of an emphasis on relevant, original content - and ask questions to encourage engagement, rather than just fishing for likes.

We think that social media marketing is an important part of any brand's marketing and PR strategy, and chances are that finding more creative ways to encourage engagement on Facebook will actually work to your benefit, rather than your detriment.

Wired Flare recently conducted a study of franchises in the greater Toronto area to help us get a better grasp on the existing needs in the franchise industry for social media support.

The findings were rather surprising.

We analyzed 89 franchises in the GTA. These are the questions as part of the analysis process:

1. On what platforms does the franchise have corporate brand pages setup (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, other, all or none)?

2. On what platforms does the franchise have local franchisee pages setup (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, other, all or none)?

3. If the franchise has franchisee pages, are their pages for all franchisees or only some?

4. Are the brand images (logos, banners, headers, etc.) good quality, reflective of the brand and consistent across all channels?

5. What is the frequency of posting to each setup social network?

6. What is the consistency of posting to each social network?

7. What types of content are being posted to each social network (promotional, product-related, inspirational, informative, etc.)?

8. What is the level of audience engagement on each social channel?

9. How many online reviews have been published for each franchise on each applicable platform?

10. Do Google Plus listings come up in local map results for every location?

After compiling the answers to each of those questions for the franchises in the study, here are our findings:

Only 28% - Strong Corporate Presence, Inconsistent Franchisee Presence

28% of the franchises were found to have a solid corporate presence on social media. They had setup at least two brand pages on social media channels, were posting consistent content and were actively engaging and responding to their audience.

And none of those 28% of franchises had a solid, identifiable plan for their franchisees. Some of the franchisees had set up their own social media pages, some had not. Some were posting a lot, some not at all. Images were often varied, and in some cases customer questions remained unanswered.

54% - Poor Brand Presence, Poor Franchisee Presence

54% of the franchises had social media profiles setup but did not have a solid corporate presence on those channels. Posting was inconsistent, infrequent, and did not elicit response from fans or followers. In many cases there were customer posts that not been responded to. In every case there was also no identifiable plan for franchisees. As with the above findings, some local pages posted a lot, some not at all. Branding and customer service were inconsistent across the board.

18% - Not Found on Social Media

18% of the franchises had no social media profiles that could be found on any social networks. That is hard to believe...but true.

The noticeable statistic that does not appear is one that would represent the franchises with a strong brand presence and strong, consistent franchisee presence. Not one of the franchises we analyzed fit into that category.

Clearly our findings indicate that many franchisors still do not understand the importance of social media. Therefore most franchises do not have a solid social media program in place that benefits all their franchisees.

This is a huge missed opportunities for franchises, and it's one that they can't afford to keep missing.

If you're a franchisor that fits into one of the above categories and is in need of support to implement a social media program that works for you and your franchisees...contact us now. We're here to help.

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]

Social media communication can actually be a great indicator as to how a franchise system supports its franchisees.

Once you've narrowed down your potential franchise choices, take some time to look at their social media and consider the following things.

Is There a Social Media Presence?

First, determine whether the franchise has a social media presence at all. For example, does it have links to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus on its corporate website? If not, this is likely an indication that the franchisor has not prioritized social communication.

However, don't stop there; look for them on your own. Search Facebook and Twitter to see if there is any franchise presence. If not, this should be a huge flag for you. With 91% of consumers today making purchasing decisions based on online experiences, social media is absolutely necessary for business growth.

Is Social Presence Corporate Only or Local?

The second step, assuming the franchise passed the test in step 1, is to determine the level of presence it has. Are social profiles only representative of the corporate franchise? For example, when doing your searches do you only find one Facebook page and one Twitter profile, both of which represent the corporate franchise?

If this is the case, it may indicate that the franchisor has a very strict policy about local pages and prohibits franchisees to have their own social media presence. Depending on the products and services the franchise offers, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you need to know and understand up front.

Is Branding and Customer Service Consistent?

If you do find many local pages, you'll likely encounter one of two scenarios:

1)      All the pages are branded similarly, have some of the same types of content, and are active; or

2)      The pages all look different and have different photos and content; some are updated regularly and some haven't had anything posted for months or longer.

If you find #1 to be true, this likely indicates that there is an overall social media strategy in place. This is great for you as a franchisee because you can feel confident that the corporate team will provide support in getting your social presence off the ground. They may even manage it for you, which can be fantastic if the franchisor also empowers and trains franchisees to be involved if and when they want to be.

If you find situation #2 to be true, which is very often the case, this likely means that when it comes to social media...you're on your own.

Up to this point, the franchisor likely has not provided any support or guidance for franchisee social profiles, which can be good and bad. The upside is that you would have freedom to engage as you choose to do so. The downside is that you'd be on your own for creating and distributing content, managing social platforms, providing customer service and building relationships with your audience. This can be a very time-consuming task.

Is Your Social Media Audience Engaging with the Franchise Online?

Finally, whether the franchise has one social profile or many, it's important to take a look at the types of conversations that are happening. Is the content dull and/or pushy, or are the posts ones that get the audience really excited about the franchise and prompt audience engagement? Are people liking, sharing and retweeting franchise posts?

If you find a lot of engagement, that's a fantastic indication that social media audiences already enjoy following the franchise online. For you that means that if you choose to be a franchisee, you'd have an audience that already knows about the franchise and will likely be excited to have a local profile to engage with on social networks.

Whatever you find when you investigate the franchise's social media presence, it's crucial to open a dialogue with your potential franchisor and ask them what, if any, corporate support is given to a franchisee's social media management. Of course this isn't the only factor in your decision to purchase a franchise, but it should definitely be one of them.

Why is it that AdWords always gets the best data and reporting?

I know the answer is because advertisers are Google's primary source of revenue, but still.

The rest of us shouldn't be left in the dark when it comes to reporting.

Over 90% of clicks on Google go to organic or local listings and we've lost access to referring keywords and can't see click-to-call data - which is the best measure of ROI short of actual visits.

What Is AdWords Click-To-Call?

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For those unaware, a few years back, Google introduced the "click-to-call" AdWords extension.

With this extension a "call" button was added next to ads that allowed mobile users to call a business with one click.

A "call" costs the same amount as a standard AdWords click. Click-to-call works especially well in the locksmith industry.

Just imagine, if you were to search for a locksmith from a mobile phone, are you more likely to call them up or leisurely sit back and read about their services?

 

AdWords Click-To-Call Reporting

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When you sign up for click-to-call in AdWords you're given detailed reports on your calls. As you can see in this AdWords click-to-call report, you can see that out of 1,839 actions, 10 of those were phone calls.

This is great data that lets you allocate your advertising spend appropriate and calculate ROI.

Why Local Search Is Made More Difficult By Google

It's simple.

Over 90% of searchers click on organic listings but all organic click-to-call data is withheld.

On Google+ Local we have access to: impressions, website clicks, more info clicks and driving direction clicks.

The simple addition of calls would make local search and Google+ Local optimization a no-brainer but until then we'll be left with lots and lots of local businesses wondering what the ROI of their SEO campaigns are.

What are you waiting for Google?

If you need help managing your Google+ Local page or local online presence, contact us for help!

The post Come On Google! Give Us Our Local Click-To-Call Data! appeared first on LocalVox.

 

 

 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) recently released a 2014 Press Release revealing website customer satisfaction across 200 companies within 33 industries.

Over 25,000 respondents provided insight on their satisfaction as it relates to the website experience for several companies.

The results may surprise you when it comes to social media: this is one area that did not do so well this year:

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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]

Among many other things it can do, social media is a powerful tool for brand communication and marketing.

One would think this might go without saying, but many businesses still aren't quite sure how it fits into their traditional marketing plan.

First, it's important to understand that brand isn't what you say it is...it's what your audience says it is. You can only shape their definitions by the way that you communicate with them, and social media can be a huge part of that process.

Second, a key element to understand is that brand communication and marketing through social media is most effective when it is focused on the audience first and foremost.

Social media provides a way of communicating to your audience at a deeper level what your company truly is and everything it stands for: mission, values, products, passions, community involvement, character, the people behind the company, and more.

It's a way of telling your story so that it resonates with your audience and reveals the deeper side of why your company is here and why it provides the products or services that it does.

It's about being real.

Social media is an extension of everything else you do to shape your brand - website, print collateral, signage, business cards.

All of that works together to shape how your audience sees you and to tell your story,  so as you craft your brand communication plan, it is important to develop an overall strategy (and budget) that involves all the pieces working together.

Conclusion:  Social media also allows your organization to gain exposure to a large audience (thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands) at a very low cast. Five years ago it would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars to reach those kinds of numbers .

With social media you have the opportunity to spread the word about your company to anyone and everyone online, and when your communication plan is audience-focused, over time they start doing your marketing for you. One person comments on your post, their friends see it, they like your page, they comment, their friends see it, they like your page, they comment, their friends see it...and over time they start buying.

That same type of exponential audience-led brand exposure doesn't happen with billboards or magazine ads. That doesn't necessarily mean you don't need billboards or magazines, but it does mean you need social media as part of your overall plan.

An ad provides one message. It offers one solution to solve one problem.

The messages you can send out on social media are endless. As your company grows, so can its social media change and adapt with it. It's thousands of messages, each one giving just a bit more of a glimpse into what you are, what you do, and why you're the best at it.

Social media is so powerful because it allows you to build relationships and foster loyalty and trust with your audience. You can't buy those relationships - you have to develop them over time by communicating in an audience-focused way.

And the best part of it all is that when you use social media effectively as part of your marketing process, the value you bring to your audience goes far beyond the products and services you can provide for them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

social-media-best-time.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

1. Local Franchise Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potbelly.jpg

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

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2. Integrating Franchise Marketing with Local Marketing is Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Practice being clear and concise with your message.

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

  • Consider using bulleted points to clearly express your thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

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

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

4. Use specific subject line descriptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Don't Forward Viral Messages.

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

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

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

  • Pending Congressional taxes on emails

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

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

  • Child abductions at giant retailers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how LinkedIn describes their groups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Carefully read the group description & rules 

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

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

  5. Start engaging by gaining group credibility

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

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

  6. Content Marketing 

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

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

    3. Respond to people who comment on your articles

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

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

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

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

LinkedIn now makes it very easy for users to endorse skills listed by their connections. Typically, as soon as you open your LinkedIn window, there it is...that box with four of your connections asking you to endorse them for specific skills.

LinkedIn makes it very easy to do so. Simply click Endorse all, and you have done just that. Then the box disappears and you can get back to your LinkedIn business. You may also choose to click on individuals if you do not want to endorse them all, and you can search for other endorsement suggestions.

So, here's the sticky point to consider:

While you likely want to support your connections, what does it say about you if you endorse someone for a skill you are not actually certain they possess?

Every endorsement you make of someone else is a reflection of you. While they may be taken less seriously than an official recommendation letter, they still represent you.

Consider that if you do not know first-hand whether someone is truly skilled in an area, providing them with an endorsement may actually be a breach of trust. It can potentially devalue your word and decrease the respect others have for you and your recommendations.

While many on LinkedIn approach endorsements as just a friendly way to lend support, consider that there may be ways to provide support to your connections and still resist the temptation to endorse someone for a skill you truly do not know that they possess.

Sharing their content is one  way to do this. Also, if you truly want to be able to endorse them, then perhaps it's time to setup a meeting so you can get to know first-hand what it is that they do and the ways they do it well.

So, the next time that endorsement box pops up, consider carefully whether the recommended endorsements are a true reflection of who and what you would want to recommend.

Use LinkedIn Like an Expert

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I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

My apologies to Peter Finch and Network, but how much longer will people complain "LinkedIn doesn't work for me!", when lazy habits are to blame?

No more excuses, LinkedIn members! Say it with me now:

"I can do this!"

"I can fit LinkedIn marketing into my day!"

"I can get great results quickly!"

Here are 5 quick shoves...errr, tips...to help you become more productive on LinkedIn, with minimal effort:

1. Stop Using Standard LinkedIn Language for Invites

"I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." Why are you still using this tired old pickup line?

It shows a complete disinterest in people and a total lack of imagination. It says, "I'm rushing through this and you're just one in a huge number of nameless faces that make up my connection quota for the day."

People, use your heads. Or more accurately, your keyboards, to create several templated invitations. Save them in a word doc, then whip 'em out and customize them for more satisfying LinkedIn connections.

For example, something as simple as "Dear John, We share membership in the ABC group. I've reviewed your profile and would appreciate the opportunity to connect." Could it be any easier?

2. Failing to Connect with Who's Viewed Your Profile

Do you ever look at this feature to see who is looking at you? Those with paid memberships get an expanded view, but even free members can see who stopped by, as long as that member has no profile restrictions.

So what are you going to do about it? Send an email.

Yes, a simple note like, "Sue, I noticed you viewed my profile. Were you just browsing or can I help you better understand [insert appropriately]?"

I wish I had tracked my use of this strategy from the beginning, because I could be telling some great stories right now about the unexpected business I've earned from this simple action.

Once again, this is an email that can be written ahead of time and slightly tweaked to customize personally. 3 seconds...in and out. Not so hard, is it?

3. Standing on the Sidelines and not Joining Groups

Remember your prom? Remember standing on the sidelines, hoping someone would ask you to dance? Ever wondered how that experience might have been forever changed if you had just stepped away from the wall?

Joining groups and then sitting there like the proverbial wallflower is ridiculous. Why did you join the group? If this group met in person once a week, would you attend every meeting but never say a word? C'mon...groups are about participation.

Networking is about finding like minded people. New business is about connecting and engaging, none of which can happen when you are virtually invisible. Start talking!

4. Cluttering Your Homepage with Tweets

When it comes to syncing Twitter with LinkedIn, you have 2 choices: sync your Twitter feed to your LinkedIn home page, or sync your LinkedIn homepage to your Twitter feed. Which one is best?

Well, the answer depends in part on your industry and your tweeting style. As a general rule of thumb, sync your LinkedIn page to your Twitter feed. This way, you won't clutter your homepage with every single tweet unrelated to your LinkedIn network, which can annoy some members. In fact, it can be so annoying some members may decide to 'hide' your updates, meaning their connection to your insights is broken until the "unhide" button is chosen. You might be chatting in the wind, but you will never know....

5. Fear of Asking for Recommendations

People generally have a tough time asking for what they want. Asking for a recommendation is no easier. It feels awkward; you may be rejected, or worse, completely ignored. If you don't know what you want to achieve with the recommendation you are requesting, think it through before asking.

Recommendations are important to a well-rounded profile, but literally vital to pagerank, which can help you get found and get hired. If you are a bit nervous, ask colleagues, peers, friends, and good clients first. They won't say no, and they'll always say something nice.

Recommendations can be about work you've done, results you've achieved, your character, work ethic, etc. Recommendations can also be used to repeat important keyword phrases. No need to write a novel when a few sentences will do. Whatever you do, don't ask strangers for recommendations.

And for heaven's sake, don't accept LinkedIn's standard language, "I'm sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks in advance for helping me out."

Good grief. Is this how you communicate with real people?

Want more LinkedIn Networking, Marketing and Advertising Tips? Sign up for the newsletter, click here.

So, your partners are getting their content out into the world wide web, now what?

Spreading it around and making sure people read it is the next step! Social media is a great platform to fulfill this goal because, as you may be aware, it has completely revolutionized the way we interact!

That's why, in this post, we'll review why social media is important for your partner local units and what it entails! Just so you get an idea of how big social media is, Facebook has over 400 million users; while "Tweeters" produce over 1 billion posts per month!

This is a big market for your business since potential customers are mingling and looking for local answers to their needs in there! Join several social media sites (the ones that make sense to your business), and get some of the benefits they have to offer:

  • Participating in Conversations about Your Business

  • Building a Relationship with Customers

  • Getting Feedback About Your Business

  • Raising Brand Awareness

  • Greater Exposure Online

What Partner Social Media Management Entails

Sharing in All Your Accounts

Partners should have their own social media profiles so they can share their customized content through them. Plus, the more social media they are a part of, the more exposure they'll get for their brand! Remember that the main objective for your posts is for them to be read, so make sure your partners are sharing them throughout their local social media accounts as soon as they're published!

Engaging the Audience

On top of that, you should think of social media as a way to start conversations about your company. This is a great way to start building relationships online. By sharing interesting news (for example) through local social media accounts, you're engaging audiences outside of your business! They'll get a sense of trust that will, more than likely, encourage them to join in on the conversation!

Answering Comments

Social media is a great space for you to get feedback from your customers because interactions are immediate. Just make sure you're answering back! Questions and concerns may rise from time to time and your customers could use social media as a way to reach out to you. A big part of managing social media is making sure that your partners are there for their customers when they need them!

Conclusion

I'm sure you've noticed it: people are constantly connected to social media. So much so that they not only use it as a way to interact with peers, but as a way to find solutions to their needs! They're talking about your business in there and your partners should join in on the conversation! Spread the word about your company at a local level and gain exposure in the vast sea that is the world wide web!

 

How Empowerkit Can Help

Again, social media is all about engaging recurrent and potential customers. It sounds like an easy and laid back task, but for those in a tight schedule, simply sharing content on social media can be perceived as a nagging task. Alas, local social media accounts are left dry and don't produce any results! If you or your partners don't have the time to be active on Twitter and Facebook to produce a successful web marketing program, we'll publish their latest content updates to their Facebook and Twitter profiles for them! This way, they'll have more time to interact with users at a local level!

Plus, if they don't have the interest, time or knowledge to keep their partner sites up, we'll be more than happy to help out! Partners can call us at 510.859.8452 to make new content updates!

To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: SetupDesignContent MarketingOff Site SEOAnalytics. Have any questions about this post or Empowerkit? Let us know in the comments! We'll be happy to reply! Try Empowerkit for Your Partner Web Marketing Program!

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

Sometimes the best ideas come from brands that have already been around the block.

From burgers to fresh pressed juices, well-established brands and franchises are eager to put money into hot trends.

Check out these four innovative new restaurant franchises backed by brand giants such as Starbucks and White Castle.

Burger 21. Owners of world famous fondue chain The Melting Pot have expanded their horizons from melted cheese to chef-inspired gourmet burgers.

Burger 21 currently only has five locations but expansion plans are in the works. The first franchise unit opened in Orlando, Florida earlier this year and the chain recently announced two franchise agreements that would lead to a restaurant in Charlotte, NC, as well as four restaurants in Virginia and Maryland.

Evolution Fresh. The juice craze is so hot. From Greenwich Village to Hollywood crowds are clamoring outside of juice shops to get a glass of fresh-pressed juice, which is purportedly to be healthy, cleansing, and delicious.

The craze is so hot that even Starbucks has jumped onboard.

The iconic coffee chain has recently purchased Evolution Fresh from Naked Juice founder Jimmy Rosenberg. Offering fresh pressed smoothies and juices, Evolution Fresh promises "flavor and nutrition in every sip." A fourth unit recently opened up in Seattle and it looks like Starbucks plans to take the chain global.

Deckers. While Time Magazine might have just named the White Castle Slider as the most influential burger of all time, White Castle is always looking for new ways to attract customers.

The chain, which has thousands of units across the Midwest and the South, has recently launched Deckers in an attempt to take the double-decker Panini sandwich mainstream.

The new chain will also serve up soups, sandwiches, and salads.

The Laughing Noodle. While we are on the subject of White Castle, we should mention that they are expanding their horizons to much more than just double-decker Panini sandwiches. They've recently been pushing The Laughing Noodle, a new franchise that offers multicultural noodles to customers looking for something a bit healthier than a burger and fries.

The first Laughing Noodle opened up in 2010 in Springfield, Ohio, inside of a White Castle.

The first standalone Laughing Noodle is slated to open in Sharonville, Ohio this year.

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/feji45heee/blaze-pizza-6/

http://www.qsrmagazine.com/exclusives/innovation-90-years-making

Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete.com.

ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively.

Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.

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

LinkedIn is one of the greatest social media sites for recruiting - both for hires and franchise owners.

Yes I know. You sell franchises & your leads are delivered to you.

But do you want LinkedIn to be a source of great and cheaply found new franchisees?

You and everyone else!

And that's unlikely to happen for your franchise, unless you pay attention to what I am going to tell you - experience I have gained by participating for more than 12 years on social media - blogs, forums and now social media sites.

The Franchisor Problem - Too much Content

You have all the social media buttons on your franchise recruitment website.

You put out press releases all the time.

You have automated your distribution of your releases, blogs and articles.

So why aren't the leads flowing in from all that effort?

Your Brand is 'out there', but You and your people are not Listening.

Let's face it, franchise executives and salespeople would rather go to a trade show to meet people, react to a lead that comes in from a franchise web portal, a franchise broker, a display advertisement that spurred a lead from your franchise recruitment website.

Might it make sense for you to try something else - using LinkedIn to augment all your other sales activities?

LinkedIn basics for Franchise Sales Executives who need to Listen.

  1. Your LinkedIn Profile needs to say you sell franchises and connect with me. So make sure it's accurate, complete and inviting.

  2. Put your LinkedIn business card on your franchise recruitment website. You're accessible right?

  3. Join LinkedIn Groups. Not just the obvious franchise groups with other franchise salespeople, but the groups that your kind of franchise-buyers are in.

  4. Comment first and continue to regularly in other people's LinkedIn Group discussions.

  5. Connect with members of your target LinkedIn groups.

  6. Check who's Looked at Your LinkedIn Profile once a day for 5 minutes and connect with those people.

  7. Get LinkedIn connected with your qualified leads you meet at your next franchise trade show.

  8. Your franchise sales administrators, qualifications specialists, marketing coordinators all need professional LinkedIn profiles as much as they need business cards. Maybe more so.

Master these 8 LinkedIn tips and you'll see a difference in your franchise sales.

All your other franchise recruitment marketing investments will work better for you when you are listening on LinkedIn.

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

Social media can be an amazing way to connect with friends, family, clients and potential clients. It can be a vehicle for personal communication and business growth.

However, it is also very public, and very quickly our private lives can become very un-private.

When it comes to protecting our families, especially, this is a scary thing. The reality is that there are predators and bullies out there who will use the Internet to take advantage of or harass others.

While we cannot prevent all this from happening, it's essential that we take every precaution possible in order to protect our own lives and the lives of our children.

Here are some ways we can protect ourselves and our families on social media:

Step 1: Know the Facts

Understand how each platform works (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchapt, etc.). Then go through the settings on each platform in order to control privacy as best as possible. Here are some tips to consider:

●Whenever possible, make sure only your approved friends can see the content you post.
●Remember that almost all platforms allow you to block people.
●Almost all platforms provide some way for you to report inappropriate conduct.
●For many platforms, content is "public" by default, so you have to go into settings and change this so only your friends can see your content.
●Many platforms keep archived copies of the content that you post. Even if you delete it, they still have it.
●Some platforms will allow you to "approve" your friends and followers in advance. When possible, select this option.

To learn more about the platforms below, follow these links:

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/help/445588775451827
https://www.facebook.com/safety

Twitter: https://twitter.com/privacy

Instagram: http://instagram.com/about/legal/privacy/

Snapchat: http://www.snapchat.com/static_files/parents.pdf

Step 2: Be Proactive with Your Privacy

Here are some proactive measures you can take on many social media networks in order to maintain your privacy.

Locations  - Turn Off Locations settings so that people do not know where you are when you are posting content.

Passwords

●Make them hard to guess.
●Don't share them with others (except for a member of your family, who should have it for protection)
●Consider changing your passwords every 6 months and keep a record of them.
●Don't use the same password for everything

Nickname - Consider using a nickname (not your real name) whenever possible

Contact Information

●share it - your friends will have your phone number; they don't need to find it on social networks.
●Never put your address
●Use a special EMAIL just for social networks that does not have your name in it.

Cookies - Delete cookies and browsing history on your computer regularly. This makes it more difficult for websites to store your information.

Account Separation - Consider not linking social networks together. Keep Facebook separate from Twitter, separate from Instagram, etc.

Step 3: Consider your "Friends" Carefully

Social media is for you to engage with your true friends. This is especially true for young people. Remember that you do NOT have to connect with everyone. Rather, only connect with people you truly WANT to connect with.

Also remember that in many cases you have the ability to block, unfriend report, keep your profile private and make your profile unsearchable. Use these things whenever you need them.

Do what feels right. If someone requests to be your friend, and it doesn't feel right to you...don't accept!

Step 4: Consider Your Content

We recommend that you do NOT post the following:

●Photos that show conduct you wouldn't want anyone but your close friends seeing
●Photos or posts showing conduct that is illegal, against the law or unethical
●Photos that show any parts of you that aren't meant to be exposed in public
●Personal information that could tell the public more information than they need to know (times, locations, plans)
●Inappropriate or defamatory language
●Negative or hurtful comments - Why? Because they are often said in the heat of anger or sadness, they don't reflect what you really mean, they could seriously hurt others, they could damage your reputation, and they could impact your future.

This is our rule of thumb:

If you wouldn't post it on a BILLBOARD for your GRANDMOTHER to see, DON'T post it online!

The Internet (and friends and future colleagues and admissions counselors and bosses) have very long memories. NOTHING is really private on social media. Your Digital Footprint stays with you FOREVER.

And remember... Sometimes it is just best to TURN IT OFF rather than post anything at all.

If your mind isn't in the right space, don't post anything (you may regret what you post later, and then it's already out there).

There are many potential consequences to posting "inappropriate" content, including:

●Physical harm to yourself or someone else
●Loss of job
●Impact on reputation
●Loss of friends
●Loss of university acceptance
●Criminal investigations

Step 5: Create a Family Social Media Agreement

Families can be the best support for each other. Staying connected online will help your family stay protected. We recommend that you:

Connect

●Stay connected with your family online
●Be friends, follow each other, etc.

Share what's happening online within your family group.

●Be honest about what's happening on social media
●Teenagers, talk with your parents
●Parents, talk with your kids
●Openness = more trust
●Sharing your account information with your family and asking for help with privacy settings will increase your protection.

Create a family online engagement contract.

●Teenagers, let your parents know that you value your privacy and independence on social networks
●Parents, let your kids know that you trust them and simply want to be there when they need you to help keep them safe.
●Define "rules" that address everyone' needs so the entire family is in agreement and understands.

Go forth, have fun and stay protected!

We spend a lot of time at Wired Flare teaching others about effective ways to engage on social networks.

Sometimes, in order to get a clear picture of how best TO communicate, you also need to understand how NOT TO use social networks.

Keep in mind that our thoughts are our own and intended only as a starting point for your thoughts.

Ultimately each organization (and each individual, for that matter) in Facebook conversations must define its own unique and fitting "rules of engagement."

So, in no particular order, here is the Wired Flare list of Top 10 Business Facebook No-No's:

1. Don't post promotions for your business on other business pages. Even if you're trying to be "helpful" (like promoting your free business listing opportunity or offering them a free service), this is just bad form. If you sincerely want to help another business, reach out to them personally through email or phone (or at least through private social message)...NOT on their public business page. This comes across as very self-serving, even if you did it with the best of intentions.

2. Do not add people to promotional business groups without their permission. This is a very unwelcome practice. It forces the "friends" you have added to the group into this position where they must risk offending you to leave the group...OR they get notifications each time someone posts in the group. (Of course, they can turn off those notifications, but do you really want to put them in that position?) Groups are intended for just that - groups of people who want to communicate with each other about a certain interest. Think of them more as support groups. Adding people willy-nilly to your business group comes across again as very self-serving. If you want to invite people to join your group, send them private messages or emails that have the link to the group that they can click on to request to join.

3. Don't send messages to a huge group of people at once. For example, if you send a message to everyone invited to an event, it comes through as a group chat. Every person then gets notifications every time someone responds to the message thread. This forces your friends to leave the message thread in order to prevent receiving notifications each time. If you want to get messages out in bulk, we recommend using a contact manager to send personalized email messages to your contacts. To use the Facebook message feature, send emails to individuals, not to groups.

4. Do not double-post. Many solopreneurs, for example, tend to post content on their business page and also on their personal profiles. This should only be done on rare occasions, and the best way to do it would be to share the content from the business page onto the profile. We recommend doing this only for special posts and only rarely.

5. Do not send promotional messages to your friends on Facebook. Promotions should be kept to a minimum, anyway, but sending unsolicited promotional messages through Facebook is just another form of spam. If you want people to see your business content, ask them (only on occasion) to like your page. You can also setup a regular monthly newsletter to go out to subscribers that would have promotions as well as helpful information. Spam, whether it's on Facebook or email, is never welcome.

6. Do not constantly post promotional content on your business page. Facebook is about building relationships and engaging with your audience. No one wants to see coupon after coupon, sale after sale, featured product after featured product. If you want them to fall in love with your brand, give them a reason why. Show them you truly care about them by offering them value...not only promotions. The 80-20 rule is a good standard to follow: keep promotional posts under 20% of total content. (We actually recommend much less than that.)

7. Do not connect Facebook to Twitter or Twitter to Facebook. When your tweets go to Facebook, it is very obvious and it devalues your brand. When your Facebook posts go to Twitter, they are most often shortened and cut off...and again, this devalues your brand. Users on Facebook and Twitter want different things. Find out what they want and give them that in unique ways.

8. Do not make negative comments about other businesses on your business page or personal profile. Whether it's the competition or simply a company that you're unhappy with, this is not a good practice. Consider how you would want your unhappy customers to approach things. If you have a beef with another company, it's best to contact them directly in a private way in order to resolve your issues. If you handle professional conflicts with other organizations in a negative way, what does this say to your audience? Perhaps it indicates to them that you will handle any issues they have with you in the same, negative manner. This definitely isn't the image you want to portray.

9. Do not complain about a customer on your personal Facebook profile (and certainly not on your business page). Even if you think this is "private" - IT ISN'T! One way or another, the message will get back to your customer and it will work against you. Plus, everything is a reflection of you. If you're complaining about your current customers to your friends, why would your friends want to become your customers? If you have an issue, it is better to deal with it privately with your customer.

10. Do not "borrow" the content that another company posts and duplicate it as your own. Whether it is a picture or content, this conveys that your company does not have its own original thoughts and does not offer unique value. Take the time to develop your own unique content, and your audience will come to have more respect for you and look to you as an expert in your field. SHARE content from other pages but do not pass it off as your own.

When you want some help with your Facebook strategy & learning effective ways to engage on social networks, give me a call and connect with me on LinkedIn.

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

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

What is New in Hashtags?

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Back in 2007, when hearing the word hashtag, many still thought of it as the "pound" or "number" sign.

Now, not only do most people know what a hashtag is, they're using them on a regular basis. I've even heard teenagers and young adults "speak" in hashtag, as in, "Ugh. I have nothing to wear, hashtag teenprobz."

Yes, they say the hashtag part!

We found this fun infographic that talks about the history of the hashtag.

Other social sites adopted the hashtag a few years later - first there was Instagram and Google+ in 2011, and later, in 2013, it was added to Vine, Flickr, and Facebook.

This is a fun walk through recent history to see how the hashtag has made a name for itself!

History-of-Hashtags-Infographic.jpg

Facebook use continues to rise, and many lawyers are using Facebook in their personal lives to connect with friends and family, but Facebook can be a valuable business building tool, and another way to communicate and engage with colleagues, law firm employees and even clients.

One way to do this is by creating a Company Page for your law firm and follow these six steps.

1. Define Administrator Roles

In the past, Facebook pages had only one level of administrator, but Facebook has recently created administrator roles, allowing firms to give different levels of permission to different people who have access to the firm's Page. This avoids the problem that arises if only one Page administrator has access to the Page, and that administrator leaves the firm.

It also will aid firms who have employees who are interested in contributing to the firm's Facebook presence, but who the firm may not want to have access to all aspects of the 'back end' of the firm's Page.

2. View insights

It is often difficult to determine whether your social media and other efforts are reaching the audience you would like them to reach, or if your are engaging your audience. Facebook administrators (depending on the Role they have been assigned) have the ability to see 'insights' that show how many people your Page is reaching on a weekly basis, and how many people are "talking about this" or engaging with your content by liking, commenting or sharing it with others.

In addition to these 'big picture' stats, page administrators can see how many people have been reached with an individual post. For each post, you can find out:

Reach: The number of people who have seen your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Engaged Users: The number of people who have actually clicked on your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Talking about this: The number of people who have liked, commented, shared, responded to an event or answered a question you posed in an update (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Virality: The percentage of people who have engaged with the post in any of the ways mentioned in 'talking about this' above, out of the number of people who have seen the post.

3. Schedule posts

Another relatively new feature of Facebook pages is the ability to schedule posts in advance. F irms can create a number of posts about newsworthy issues, happenings or events.  They can schedule the posts to be published in the  future.

Since batching or 'chunking' similar work together is one of the best ways to be productive, this can help firms to ensure that their message is getting seen by their connections and colleagues - or to their employees - without needing to constantly go back to update the Page.

Page administrators can concentrate on engaging with others by spending only a few minutes a day on Facebook, with one weekly time set aside for creating updates.

4. Offer Valuable Information to Your Audience

With Facebook's "apps" or "tabs," you can create calls to action. For example, if you offer free information or downloads from your website, such as a personal injury guide, FAQs on divorce in your state, a guide to the court system, etc., you can direct Facebook visitors to your website by creating a custom App.

Upload an appropriate image and a link that directs visitors to a landing page you designate.

5. Use Your Timeline Effectively:

Create Milestones, which are to Pages what Life Events are to personal Profiles. Milestones are designated with a flag icon and are the full width of the page (843 x 403 pixels), rather than the smaller size of regular posts (520 pixels wide).

A Milestone must include a title, but it can also include other details. Mergers, office moves, and the addition of a new partner are events you might want to include as Milestones.

6. Star stories to expand the post to widescreen and make it more prominent.

Pin a post to the top of your Timeline for up to a week--after that, it returns to its chronological place in the Timeline.

Backdate posts for special events in the life of your firm that occurred before you started your Page.

Want more tips on what lawyers can do with Facebook - both as individuals and with law firm Pages?

Take a look at Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers, my latest book with co-author Dennis Kennedy, now available for pre-order, with a 15% discount.

I'd love to hear how you and your firm are using Facebook, too! Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know your ideas.

3 out of 5 searches are conducted on a mobile device*.

When it comes to being found by local consumers, mobile visibility is quickly becoming nearly as essential for a local business as having a business phone number.

The small screen size means a business has to show up among the top listings for its particular product or service, or risk never being found by their local customers using their mobile devices.

Getting the basics right is where businesses need to invest their efforts--from mobile optimized local landing pages, to verified business profiles across search, social, directory sites and mobile apps.

Join us on October 10th for our webinar where we will be discussing the importance of having a local mobile presence and the key differences for national brands and SMBs.

Register via Local Search Association.

This post is the first of a four-part series co-written by Privy and On The Spot Systems to share some of the easiest and smartest ways to get new customers and turn them into repeat customers. 

In the daily grind of the business world sometimes it's easy to take certain 'best practices' for granted, so we've written a series of articles to review some of the key value-adding benefits of connecting online promotions, guest segments and guest satisfaction surveys within food service and restaurant businesses.

They will cover four steps: 

1. The Power of an Email Address

Every restaurant wants customer email addresses - but why?  Naturally, to reach out to consumers to inspire them to come visit your restaurant more frequently. 

The truth is, people don't want to hear from your restaurant unless you have something relevant to say. 

So, it's up to restaurants to understand what each individual customer appreciates so the messaging can be tailored to them. If your restaurant is able to do this successfully, you'll notice a un-take in your foot-traffic from customers returning more frequently.

But how do you collect email addresses and understand what each person behind the email address wants to hear?

2. Promotions Earn Email Addresses

Here's the short answer: offer a promotion in exchange for an email address and track where that person redeems the promotion.  People now do research online before they choose where to eat - that's why restaurants have websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and more.  Use these platforms to your advantage!  Use them to collect consumer contact information so you can own relationships with customers and get them to come back when you want, not only when they simply feel like it.

3. Surveys Earn Email Addresses

Are you already running mobile surveys to understand how your customers enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) your in-store experience? It's the same as a comment card, except for the 21st century.

Take the opportunity to ask customers for their email address within your mobile survey so you can both learn how to improve your in-store experience and collect information on a customer including the context of which location they visited, what meals they like to eat out, and what they liked or didn't like about your food.

4. You Must Track!

It's important that you track this information so you can begin to link important details about your customers, such as their contact information, what menu items they like, and which location they prefer to visit most frequently. This will enable you to effectively manage Step 2: Create strong customer segments.

If you don't have the most advanced customer tracking across all of your web properties and POS systems, don't worry!  There are other ways to segment your customers accurately and effectively.

5. Easy Tracking Tips

First, don't be overwhelmed by all the ways you could track customers; in reality there are only two ways you need to consider segmenting your audience of customers. One way is demographically - age, gender, zip code, etc. The other is contextually - are they a repeat customer? A first time visitor? Did someone refer them?

Do they follow you on social media or do they glance at your website from time to time?  Did they come on a whim or did they decide to visit because of an offer they received? The common denominator between all of these attributes is that your customers can answer these questions for you, even if your analytics tracking capabilities can't. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Try starting out by choosing just one demographic attribute and one contextual attribute. For example, say you want to segment customers based on their location for demographics, and based on if they are a repeat customer from a contextual standpoint. Many advanced mobile survey tools can automatically pinpoint the gps location of the respondent and the store location being critiqued, so you don't have to worry about that aspect.

And, if your POS analytics capabilities aren't set up to track metrics like repeat customers, that's okay. To make sure your data is completely fool-proof, don't be afraid to do the obvious- just ask! Simply build questions like 'How often do you visit our restaurant?' into your mobile customer satisfaction survey and email club signup form.

Once you collect contact information from various sources and build context around those customers, you will be able to create smart segments.

For more articles by Julie Ricchuito, please click here.

Yes, content is king. AND...using it properly through social networks is a crucial component of franchise growth.

Consumers today trust the information they find through social networks - what their peers have to say, the posts they find, the way franchises treat their audience - more than most other resources.

More than 70% of consumers purchase from brands they follow online.

So, what does this mean for franchises? They need to be using social networks properly. This means more than simply setting up a Facebook page. It means carefully choosing which networks to participate in and then engaging with them consistently.

The first step, of course, is selecting which networks are right for your franchise's participation.

Here are the issues.

1. Is your audience there? Is your competition there? If yes to both, you most certainly need to be there. If your audience is not there, it may not be a place you need to be.

2. Once you've decided where you need to be, you must determine whether to setup brand pages only or pages for each franchise location. This decision would ideally be part of setting up a whole-franchise online marketing model, created with input from franchisor and franchisees.

After you have pages setup, content is the new task at hand.

1. What types of content do you post and where? Different platforms require content to be presented in different ways. However, before deciding what goes where comes the process simply of identifying what types of content your audience would want to see from you.

2. Keep this in mind while creating content: limit self-promotion to less than 20% of your content. This means that if you put out 10 posts each week, only two of them would be "promotional" in nature. In our opinion, this is still too much.

We recommend staying under 10% and to focusing on how you can benefit your audience rather than how you can sell to them.

This does not mean hiding from your products and services, however. It simply means engaging with social media in such a way that you are focused on helping others rather than helping yourself.

For example, posting a photo of a newly created menu item with its ingredients (except for your secret ingredients, of course) is a great way to engage the audience. It is also helpful to them because they could try something similar on their own.

Realize here that you're not "giving it away" by giving them an idea for a recipe. You're inspiring them to create a delicious dish, and when they want the "real thing" they'll come see you.

Compare that with simply posting the photo with words such as, "Today only special - $9.95." That type of post feels very different. Instead of being inspiring it feels self-serving. The audience picks up on that.

Using that as a guide, consider the following: What could you post that would help your audience in some way?

  1. How can you inspire them?
  2. How can you inform them?
  3. How can you entertain them?
  4. How can you motivate them?
  5. How can you educate them?

And...how can you do those things by posting content that is relevant to your industry?

Consider media such as videos and images.

People love to be visually engaged. You may want to consider creating your own infographics or photo postcards, as well. Videos might be ones you create yourself, such as how-to tutorials or web TV episodes. They may also be entertaining clips from YouTube that you know your audience will enjoy.

Look around for quotes by other experts in your industry. Consider adding these quotes to images to make them more visual, too. Sharing the quotes form one of your own experts can be very effective, as well.

Locate articles that would be beneficial to your audience. LinkedIn can be a great resource for that, as well as other news sources.

Blog directories like alltop.com can also help you identify current articles and information.

You should also create your own content, post it on your blog and share on social media, as well. This is one of the best ways to establish your expertise and to link back to your website in a non-self-promotional sort of way.

Other types of content might include how-to tips and industry facts or statistics, and there are many, many others.

This is really just the beginning. Once you identify the types of content you want to share, posts must be created for unique audiences on each social network. The same content shouldn't go out to every social network because users want different things.

As a very brief overview, which is by no means exclusive and is only a starting point for a tailored investigation as to what YOUR audience would specifically be looking for on each platform, here are some hints:

1. Facebook users want to be engaged. Post lots of visuals. Speak to the heart. Entertain them. Make it personal. Ask them questions and encourage them to be part of the conversation.

2. Twitter users want quick, short bits that can sink in quickly. They like lots of quick tips and article links, and videos and images work here, too.

3. LinkedIn users want professional, educational resources. Think informative articles from well-respected sources.

4. Pinterest users want images, of course. Google Plus users want informative, mostly tech-related articles.

Content creation and distribution is just the beginning. Monitoring, engagement and customer service all go hand-in-hand to optimize your social media marketing. The foundation of online communication and relationship-building, however, is great content.

Once you have that, you have a great start!

For more of Frances Leary's marketing advice for franchises, click here.

Trying to build business connections has always been hard.

LinkedIn had made it easier.  I used to routinely answer all types of questions in many different LinkedIn groups about call centers.  I would always end my answer with an explicit direction to our website, if they needed to find more information.

Many people, but not all, went to our webiste and eventually became customers.

This seemed like a perfect sales pitch: I give you good information for free, and some people reciprocate by turning into customers.

Some group owners didn't like my approach and some did.  Fair enough.

But, LinkedIn then made it very hard with the introduction of Site Wide Area Moderation, or SWAM.

The group owners who didn't like my approach could SWAM me and put me on moderation in the groups that did like me.

I, and many others, could not understand this.

But then I read Michael Webster's concise point, on a LinkedIn group thread we both belong to:

"SWAM is effective because it gives owners unjustified reach - jurisdiction over non-members & other groups. That is the way it is designed. 

To amplify a single signal (try saying that fast 5 times in a row) of spam into the largest signal possible. It cuts down on needing and employing thoughtful moderators. 

If you are selling sponsored groups, it means that you don't have to spend a lot of money moderating them because SWAM is working for you. 

That is why SWAM is here to stay - as long as LI is making money off of sponsored groups."

What an epiphany!

That's the most cynical - yet as I now can see - most accurate & succinct definition of LinkedIn's anti SPAM Site Wide Auto Moderation (SWAM) policy that I've ever read.

I'd been campaigning against SWAM because I claimed that it was deeply flawed & fundamentally unjust.

Webster opened my eyes to see that SWAM is doing exactly what it was designed to do - and that in its own heavy handed & totalitarian way is actually a very "elegant" solution.

I'd been pointing out what a poor job LinkedIn has done educating group owners/managers/moderators as to what SWAM was to begin with.

Well - Webster is right. Why bother educating them when SWAM cuts down on the need to employ thoughtful moderators at all?

I'd been pointing out that SWAM gave a single owner/manager/moderator the power to suppress & muzzle a group member across the entire LinkedIn platform - without the need to provide even a shred of evidence.

And again Webster's explanation is correct. LinkedIn designed SWAM to empower a single owner/manager/moderator with unjustified reach & jurisdiction over non members & other groups - precisely because they wanted SWAM to amplify a single signal of suspected SPAM and to turn that suspicion into the largest signal possible - because by doing so SWAM cuts down on the time & money required to moderate groups - or the need to employ thoughtful moderators at all (particularly for Open Groups).

Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed. ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

 

Legal Zoom - The Challenge to Franchise Attorneys

Richard Susskind has been writing for years about how technology will change the craft of lawyering from the production of specialized and unique legal consultation to scaled production.  

Some dismiss scaled production of legal products as mere "document mills".

Recently, some Franchise Attorneys, members of the American Bar Association's Forum on Franchising, made a similar complaint about Legal Zoom.

Legal Zoom charges its members $799 for a written review of the Franchise Disclosure Document, FDD.  Many attorneys in the Forum felt that such a low price was not possible, and was a signal of poor quality.

I believe that they could be wrong & they don't understand how legal skills can scale.  

This article is a short demonstration of how modern bargaining theory can help us see how we could scale legal products to benefit the consumer.

How Does Legal Zoom Work?

Can Legal Zoom offer a quality legal product at this low price?

Here is a sketch of how it could be done.  I am going to refer to the "Legal Platform" to make it clear that this article is not based on any inside knowledge of Legal Zoom's actual business model.  It is based on basic bargaining economics found in the literature on multi-sided platforms -which is just a long word for devices which match buyers and sellers by adding other elements or parts.  Legal Zoom may or may not fit what I am going to describe as the "Legal Platform".

What do you get as member of Legal Zoom?  What do you get for your $799?

Here is the description from the Legal Zoom website.

What is the Offer.png

So, you get two 1/2 hour phone consultations and a "customized" report of the FDD, if you are a Business Advantage member.  This level of membership will cost you a further $24.00/month.

Now, it is difficult to see how a lawyer who is properly retained, and therefore under threat of sanction for professional negligence or misconduct, could afford to spend 10 or more hours on reviewing an FDD, charge only $799 & make any money in the long run.

(Of course, if the lawyer is not retained and is simply giving out legal information while explicitly disclaiming any reliance upon it that would be a different story.)

But, the trick to solve this economic problem to add attorneys, or types of attorneys.  One whose retainer is with Legal Zoom and the other whose retainer is with the business advantage member.  

Let's how this might work.  First, let's look at the bargaining problem.

How the Legal Platform Works - Matching Those Seeking Legal Advice with Those Who Will Provide it at the Right Cost

Here is a simple diagram of our problem.  

The buyer of legal information only wishes to pay $800, while seller will not accept less than $5,000.  

Let's assume that the seller's product is in fact worth $5,000 -an experienced attorney's time to examine the FDD and Franchise agreement is between 10 -15 hours at an hourly rate of $500.00

 How To Sell FDDs - No Deal- No Zone of Agreement.png


If you are very qualified & expensive attorney, it is natural to wonder if you could "replicate" your work by selling it over and over again to many new franchisee prospects.

For example, if there were 7 prospective franchisees each wanting a review of the same franchisor system, then collectively they could pay $5,600 for a review.

How To Sell FDDs - Possible Deal- Complex Coordination - No Match.png


But, there are several problems here:

1.  Finding and coordinating all these prospects is a complex task - for which laywers have no special skills, experience or advantage.

2. The retainer problem is still present, and the liability for negligent advice has just been multiplied by a factor of 7.

3. It is not clear how you would deliver this legal product, and make it relevant to each of your 7 clients and still make a buck.

 

Now, here is where the multi-sided platform idea helps.  Instead of coordinating many prospects with one lawyer, we coordinate many prospects, with two types of lawyers, a non-specialist & the expert.

 

Again, let's assume that we have a collective surplus of $5,600 from the buyers, and 7 potential buyers.

How To Sell FDDs - Platform Solution -Matching & Creating ZOA.png

Here is how the transactions could work.

1. The Legal Platform buys the FDD review from a very qualified & experienced lawyer for $5,000.  This is a good deal for the specialist.

2. Attorney3 is non-specialist, and so are the other Attorney members. 

These are the Attorneys who provide the two 1/2 hour calls, take the information, and provide some customization to the very detailed FDD they purchase from the platform, let's say for $500 per FDD.  They agree to limit their billing to $200/hr for the first hour and provide a 1/2 free hour.  From their perspective, each transaction is worth $200, or 1 billable hour because they get $800 from the platform & have to spend 1 hour on the phone, billable at $100, and have to buy a FDD review for $500.  So, as long as the customization doesn't take more than 1 hour, this is good deal for a non-specialist.

3. The Legal Platform also have members at $24/month, and this legal product can be marketed to them.  The Legal Platform also has attorneys as members, who agree to certain flat fees in return for having their phones ring.

But, if the Legal Platform can only match up 7 prospects with 7 non-specialists, it loses money.  Only after matching 10, will the Legal Platform make money.  It takes on this risk and finds not 10, but 25 prospective franchisees.

And then, everyone in the Legal Platform is happy.  

The members, the attorneys, and the Legal Platform have all conducted valuable trades - trades that would not be possible if the Legal Platform did not exist.

 

If you thought this was useful or interesting, then you should sign up for my Newsletter on Bargaining. Just click here and Mail Chimp will take over.  Thanks.  

Oh, and we never give out your email.

 

Many of my clients ask me "How much time should I invest in LinkedIn?".

Some ask about ROI (Return On Investment). What do they gain? How does it affect their bottom line? What are the outcomes?

Great questions and frankly - something we should all be asking ourselves whenever we spend time on the LinkedIn platform.

Time spent on LinkedIn could be time spent elsewhere, so let's make it count, right?

I have 2 LinkedIn Profiles, one is for people I know, the other is for people I'd like to know/better. Having 2 Accounts also allows me to experiment and test all kinds of cool LinkedIn stuff.

I've been looking at SIDEBAR STATS (Views, Searches, Your Network etc.) on both Profiles recently.

LinkedIn gives all users a line chart of their VIEWS and a weekly SEARCH stat. Paid users get 90 days of browser history. No one else can see this information except you.

The answer to ROI is right there in those stats.

1. DO I WANT MORE VIEWS or SEARCHES?

If you're trying to determine ROI for LinkedIn, focus on VIEWS for the following reasons:

(1) You know for certain that someone has actually viewed your Profile.
(2) You can influence views efficiently by your own actions on LinkedIn.
(3) LinkedIn provides multiple opportunities to engage in activity which yields views.
(4) Views, just like clicks in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) terms, are valuable.

Why I don't regard SEARCHES as important as VIEWS in determining ROI:

(1) You don't know for certain that searches equate to views.
(2) Keyword-stuffed Profiles will always win in searches. Keyword-stuffing has downsides.
(3) There are too many factors beyond your control which influence searches.
(4) Searches are not clicks and are difficult to assess in terms of value.

2. HOW TO GET MORE VIEWS


39% of LinkedIn users have a paid account* and my guess is that the primary reason for paying for LinkedIn Premium is to know who is viewing your Profile. Non-paying users will be tempted to pay now that they are seeing their popularity mapped out in a chart plotting views (or browser traffic).

I decided to experiment with getting my views boosted and 'off the chart'.

I used a combination of 5 techniques, they worked, beautifully.

*Paid Account Reference - http://visual.ly/10-amazing-linkedin-statistics-2013

3. COMPARISON: GETTING MORE VIEWS

My bench-mark Profile shows views zig-zagging between a range of 36 to 108 weekly. My daily average of views for the bench-mark account is 8.91 (802 ÷ 90).

1-Screen-Shot-2013-06-23-at-5.44.53-PM.png

The test account was around 250 views per/week prior to implementing the 5 techiques.

But, I've managed to boost views on my other Profile by 200% (250 to 750 Views), using the 5 techniques!

Daily average views for the test account is currently 41.98 (3779 ÷ 90).

1-Screen-Shot-2013-06-23-at-7.40.40-AM.png

The test account has 371% more daily views than the bench-mark account.

What level of traffic would you want on your site? 9 views per day or 42?

My guess is that most people who do the bare minimum in terms of activity on LinkedIn get between 3-10 views per day.

But, I got an average of 77 daily views over three days last week. The tested Profile will garner in the region of 12,000 more views over the course of a year than the bench-mark. Wow!

Benchmark Profile Views:

1-Screen-Shot-2013-06-05-at-8.33.00-PM.png

Test Profile View, Using 5 Techniques, Views:

1-Screen-Shot-2013-06-20-at-5.36.53-AM.png

Side by side comparison between bench-mark profile and test profile using 5 techinques.

Comparison of Profiles.png

In the interest of full disclosure both Profiles have been set up with the following attributes (which may or may not influence views and search):

- Both have 'vanity' urls.

- Both have a 100% complete Profile.

- Rich Media is abundant on both Profiles.

- I've chosen the maximum Skills (50) for both.

- Both Summaries tell my professional story in less than 250 words.

- I've got the same Premium Account for both (which costs $95.40 per/yr per account).

- Both have a photograph where I can be identified in all 3 of the LinkedIn sizes.

Where the 2 Profiles differ:

- I've joined 50 Groups in the test account. I've joined 42 in my bench-mark account.

- 2,349 1st Degree Connections on test account. 426 1st Degree Connections on bench-mark account.

- Followed 115 Companies/Organizations in test account. 198 followed on bench-mark account.

- Rich Media: 5 Blog articles on test account. 10 articles on bench-mark account.

HOW YOU TO CAN "BOOST" YOUR LINKEDIN VIEWS BY 200%


I'm calling this the "View Boosting" strategy.

5 effective techniques, taking approximately 10 minutes a day to implement, working together to cause a cumulative jump in views of a Profile.

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]

If you want to know exactly how I achieved this 200% boost in daily LinkedIn Profile views, I'll show you for $15. That's less than what you spend on coffee or donuts this week.

Simply send your payment to my PayPal ([email protected]) and I will email you an easy to follow, 3 page pdf guide providing an overview with details of the 'View Master' technique.

What value do you place on having thousands of professionals actually viewing your LinkedIn Profile this year?

In the early days of the commercialized Web, the idea that you could purchase goods and services from providers anywhere in the world using your personal computer was exciting and irresistible. But as the Internet has evolved and the search experience has advanced, consumers have become increasingly focused on their local world when looking online for products and services.

From desktop to smartphone to tablet, local search intent is strong, with one in three searches having local intent, according to Google.

For businesses with multiple locations--whether national brands, regional chains or small businesses with more than one location--finding a way to capitalize on local search intent is critical.

Research shows that 49% of local searches are conducted without a specific brand in mind, and 61% of searchers consider local results to be more relevant than standard search results.*

Even if you are successful in appearing in local searches, if you don't point consumers to a landing page with relevant local content, you will lose them along the path to purchase.

Separate landing pages, rich with relevant content and keywords, will help you engage local consumers. These landing pages will not only help local consumers find you more easily, they will increase the chances consumers will conclude their purchase journey with you.

Here are just a four reasons why deploying individual local landing pages is a smart move for your multiple location business:

1. Hyperlocal presence - be seen where your consumers are searching. With separate landing pages containing location-specific content and keywords, you can dominate hyperlocal searches in more than one city, town or neighborhood.

2. Increased brand awareness through visibility across multiple markets. Make full use of online and mobile search portals, directories, aggregators and review sites. Your business will stay in front of the consumer, creating constant visibility and market saturation.

3. Enhanced, relevant content draws local consumer attention. Increase your findability in local searches by ensuring the consistency of your information and the inclusion of enhanced content like location-specific website links, hours of operation, logos and other images.

Consumers are more likely to click on a local search result for your business that includes an image. What's more, your business will show up in image searches, increasing your overall search visibility.

4. Express your local personality. More than one-third of smartphone users are looking specifically for retailer contact details such as phone number, address and directions (source: The Mobile Path to Purchase).

Separate landing pages enable you to add specific information about each business location (e.g., local phone number, local address, cross streets and directions, special products and services offered by the location, other details specific to the location), helping a consumer see you as a truly local business.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if your business--whether a national brand or SMB--has multiple locations, you are a local business.

You need to focus on the needs of your local consumers across the cities, towns and neighborhoods you serve.

And that begins with helping your customers find you and quickly identify you as a local business that can fulfill their needs.

Separate landing pages for each of your locations will help you establish your local presence in the minds of local customers.

From there, it's up to you to win their hearts and their business.

* Resource.com

For more useful advice on local search, read more of Brian Coryat.

Building a strong offline and online presence in local markets is of key importance to every organization that sells products and/or services to a local audience.

For franchises, this is an ever-increasing challenge because as they grow, they expand into more and more local markets. It is a challenge that, if ignored, can lead to devastating results. On the flip side, when addressed properly, it can lead to industry widespread exposure...and that's a good thing.

One important aspect of that is securing a prime spot in the increasingly important map listing results that appear in response to keyword searches on Google.

When that all-powerful map appears, you need to be there.

While Google Local Pages are still active, Google is transitioning priority to Google+ pages, so it's imperative that franchises that need a local presence setup a Google+ page. Not just any page can be setup, however.

In order to appear in local map results, you must setup a Google+ page as a "Local Business" rather than choosing an alternative such as product/brand, company/institution, arts/entertainment/sports or other.

It's also crucial that you then go through the process and complete all the steps in order to take advantage of the power that Google+ offers:

  • -Specify correct physical location
  • -Choose the correct categories
  • -Add a description with keywords
  • -Adding a website link
  • -Add a logo and cover photo
  • -Post a welcoming message

And lastly...verify the page! Without verification the page will not appear in Google results...then the efforts are wasted.

It is important for franchises to determine who is responsible for the setup and maintenance of these pages. Many pages can be setup through a single Google account, which makes it easy for the corporate franchise team to maintain.

Given that in most industries audience engagement on Google+ is not as crucial as it is on other networks such as Facebook or Twitter, corporate management of the pages may be the most practical and make the most sense.

If it is decided that independent franchises will setup their own Google+ pages, then the corporate team should provide them with instructions about how to do so properly in order to maximize results.

Regardless of who sets it up, Google+ is an essential component of establishing a solid online presence for franchises in local markets.

    Mobile search has fast become consumers' preferred method when searching for local businesses.

    In fact, 50% of Google mobile searches are local. The data is clear--mobile search is surging as desktop search continues to decline.

    Having a mobile optimized website is now a must for local businesses that want to be found by the millions of local consumers who are routinely conducting mobile local searches from their smartphones and tablets. Mobile optimization--and the related building blocks of local SEO--is nearly as essential for a local business as having a business phone number.

    And yet, most small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are local businesses, are not well positioned to be found by mobile searchers. According to data from SMB DigitalScape, 94.5 percent of U.S. SMB websites are not mobile optimized.

    It's time for local businesses to get serious about mobile, or risk losing ground to mobile-ready competitors.

    1. Is Mobile Really So Important for My Local Business?

    Among the advantages of mobile search is that it's newer; therefore mobile search results are a lot less cluttered than desktop search results. This lack of competition in the results gives a local businesses even greater visibility in searches.

    If that doesn't offer sufficient motivation to start thinking seriously about mobile, there's a growing mountain of data to support the urgency to get mobile optimized...now.

    Consider that:

    • Mobile searchers convert faster, with 55% responding within one hour of a search. ***
    • Mobile optimized websites have 11.5 percent higher click-through rates. *
    • 25% of mobile users who search for a local business make an in-store purchase. **
    • 49% of mobile users who search for a local business location search for it on a map. **
    • One out of three smartphone users search specifically for contact information, such as phone numbers, maps and driving directions. ****

    2. I'm Mobile Optimized, But I'm Still Not Showing Up in Mobile Searches

    Optimizing a website for mobile devices is only one piece of a local business' mobile strategy. The smaller screen size means a business has to show up among the top listings for its particular product or service, otherwise the customer will never see the business' listing. Therefore, search engine optimization is a critical component for visibility in mobile searches.

    Local businesses must ensure they not only claim their online business listings, they must also make sure their basic business information - name, address, phone number - is accurate and consistent, everywhere it appears online.

    3. Where's My Google Map Pin?

    Local search is broken on most major directory apps. For example, when performing a local search on Google, your business may not show up - even if you are standing inside your business location.

    Once again, to show up on the Google map in a local search, you need to make sure your business listing is claimed, the data is accurate and the location pin is in the correct place.

    So, Just Do It

    Smartphones have clearly changed the way we perform everyday tasks.

    For local businesses, mobile is no longer something to push off until next year. If you want to remain competitive in your local marketplace, your business has to be visible to the growing number of mobile local consumers.

    Move local SEO and mobile website optimization to the top of your to do list. And just do it.

    * Google-Nielsen Study

    ** Startapp

    *** Google Smartphone Study

    **** Mobile Path to Purchase Study by Telmetrics and xAd

    I recently talked with a restaurant owner at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago last month. He shared his story of his frustration with Yelp, stating that he wasn't quite sure how to overcome negative posts. I asked him more about the story to get a better understanding of what was happening, and in it was a good lesson and example of how to make the most out of online reviews.

    He said that he started seeing negative reviews come up on some of his locations; some of them were true issues that he was able to resolve, and some were less pertinent complaints, with some comments seemingly from people who are generally unhappy and tend to complain about everything.

    Concerned that negative reviews would overshadow positive ones, he started a campaign in his restaurants to encourage people to leave positive reviews on Yelp after their dining experience. He received a good response in general, though when he reviewed his Yelp pages, he noticed that the reviews were skewed as far as which were being posted. After some digging, he found that all of the reviews written were published; however, some (notably many of the positive ones) were more or less buried.

    Frustrated, he contacted Yelp for assistance, and learned that he could get help with this, for a price. As budget constraints didn't allow for this, he took matters into his own hands. He was sure to continue to encourage customers to leave positive reviews when they were pleased with their experience, but he also made a personal connection with those that left negative reviews.

    In addition to publicly addressing concerns and making them right, whether that be to offer a discount on a future visit, apologize in a sincere manner, or whatever would make the situation better, he and his managers were notified whenever a customer redeemed these "negative situation coupons."

    By taking this extra step and making the personal connection, he reported that many customers not only gave the restaurant a second chance, but they became regular customers, who, interestingly enough, started leaving positive reviews on Yelp and other similar sites.

    Negative reviews can be daunting and worrisome, especially to smaller to mid-size companies, but, as you can see, handled the right way, these reviews can really turn things around and save dissatisfied customers.

    I enjoyed hearing this story and seeing how his efforts really paid off. What has worked for you?

    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]

    Local Market Launch today introduced a local visibility audit tool that enables national brands and multi-location businesses to gauge the local online presence (across search, local directories, and social media) of all their locations--whether they have two, hundreds or even thousands of locations.

    Until now, managing the local online presence of multiple locations has been a resource-intensive undertaking for national and regional brands, often yielding mediocre results.

    Our new tool allows brands to efficiently identify locations with underperforming aspects of online presence, such as inconsistent or incomplete business listing information in online directories, a factor that can diminish a location's findability in online and mobile searches.

    Manual approaches to managing the ever-increasing number of digital channels that publish local business information are simply ineffective.

    Our new local visibility audit tool enables multi-location businesses to get a handle on local online presence, control brand assets across their organization, and ultimately help increase traffic to their local operations. We look forward to introducing our new tool to attendees of next week's Street Fight Summit West.

    Distinguishing features of the tool include:

    • Ability to input a business location phone number and view associated directory listings in real time
    • Widgetized for easy sharing of the same functionality with another website
    • Ability for multiple businesses with the same name (e.g., Rusty's), or for businesses that can't be found with their phone number (e.g., new           businesses) to be found
    • Currently actively scans the top 25-plus directory websites, with additional directory sites continuing to be integrated into the tool
    • "A select group of agency partners have been using the tool in beta release with their national brand clients to review their local online visibility across search, local directories, and social media," said Jeff Hoyer, VP of sales, Local Market Launch. "Feedback indicates it is a compelling pre-sales tool that agencies and resellers can use to effectively demonstrate the overall value of our business listings and reputation management solutions."

    Local Market Launch will showcase the new tool and the company's full range of local online presence solutions for SMBs, franchisees and multi-location businesses, as a sponsor of next week's Street Fight Summit West, which takes place June 4, at the Bentley Reserve, in Downtown San Francisco.

    Local Market Launch's Coryat will take to the conference stage to introduce a panel discussion titled, "How Mobile Analytics and Mapping are Transforming Local," featuring Street Fight columnist Matt Sokoloff.

    On the eve of the conference, Monday, June 3, Local Market Launch will host an invitation-only wine tasting event offering conference attendees "A Taste of Santa Barbara" and the opportunity to jumpstart the networking with their peers in the hyperlocal industry. To request an invitation to the event, contact Angela Tan at angela(at)localmarketlaunch(dot)com.

    Users have demonstrated that they prefer mobile for their communications because they see it as a two way street where they can both self-select and receive individualized content.

    But many brands and companies are still harboring the "If the experts say mobile helps drive sales then we'll use mobile to drive sales".

    That's the kind of strategy that banks get 'dinged' for in TV commercials all the time. All jokes aside, even if banks get a bad reputation for not caring enough for their customers, they sure have done exactly what their customers have asked for by allowing mobile deposits through their banking apps- and it's really paid off.

    Consumers are embracing mobile devices for the ease and convenience they bring to everyday activities, such as using smartphones and tablets to deposit more than $40 billion into their accounts by snapping a picture of a check, according to Mitek, a provider of mobile imaging services that enable the mobile deposit features of banking apps. And, you know that when personal finance management via mobile apps is entrusted by millions that you've hit the jackpot for proving that there is enormous potential for consumers to trust mobile for every activity and interaction.

    Now, you have to stop and ask yourself, how did the banks realize this point of convenience would be so admirably appreciated by consumers? Even more so, imagine what barriers would have been difficult for banks to overcome to reach such an innovative idea. For one, coming up with an innovative idea like mobile check deposits isn't something the bank would HAVE to improve upon- the fact that banks have already invested in ATM and branch locations throughout their geographic footprint means that there was not a gap in the services. The idea of going to the bank to deposit your checks had been working fine for literally hundreds of years. Today, it's now just another thing we expect from our banks- proven by the high adoption rate and the billions of dollars in deposits that have been entrusted in the care of mobile banking apps. 

    Plus, another study conducted by Quicken found that 15% of those surveyed say they prefer to check their financial accounts on a smartphone or tablet and that number is only going to grow in the next five to ten years, according to Barry Saik, vice president and general manager at Quicken. Additionally, more than 50% of users check their financial account balances on their smartphone monthly.

    What are the implications for your brand or business? When you think about mobile, challenge yourself not to think inside the box (re-designing your current desktop web assets for mobile) but allow yourself time to think bigger. 

    Are there any areas of your business that perform customer facing functions that would be easier and more fun to do on mobile? Our clients have unanimously agreed that old paper and desktop web and email surveys are not quite as engaging, so they've moved their customer feedback program to our system to give their customers a refreshingly simple mobile experience for giving feedback. Since the ability to feel that one's opinion has been heard and is appreciated improves customer loyalty, it's a double win for you! Your other win for customer loyalty is adapting user experience to be simple and snazzy on mobile, but more on that in a little bit.  

    When it's easy to do on the go, people will do it. In the graph to the left from Google's Our Mobile Planet you can see than an overwhelming majority of US smartphone users say that they use the internet on their smartphone to pass time while waiting (around 70%) and to answer questions quickly (around 60%) and that behavior doesn't really change at all between the 18-year old and 49-year old users.

    Ultimately, it's important to keep in mind what consumers really expect. The percentage of smartphone users that expect websites to be as easy to use as on a computer is already over 60% and it continues to grow. Consumers expect your web experience to be seamless on mobile- even if you think it's an unreasonable expectation from the brand's perspective. It takes a serious investment of time and resources to be mobile friendly but it's worth it! 

    In fact, it may be what's standing between you and increasing your sales. First impressions are everything with mobile: 44 percent of online shoppers said they would never return to sites that are not mobile friendly, according to a new report from Kentico Software. 

    "The most surprising finding was the difference in the trust placed in self-selected content such as reviews and natural search versus digital push communications such as banner ads and text messages," said Tracy Stokes, principal analyst at Forrester, Boston.

    A new report from Forrester Research on digital push communications showed that less than 15% of U.S. consumers trust text messages from marketers and information on mobile applications. This is important- make sure that you offer options for your customers to connect with you- allow them to have several interactions with your brand via channels of their choice to build their trust. And, above all, find ways to allow your customers to initiate and choose the timing of communication and engagement with your mobile brand assets. 

    The moral of the story: If you make everything your customers need and want to access seamless on mobile, they'll choose to visit your content again and again. And, you'll become the brand that they're checking out when they're on the go and passing time browsing the web on their smartphone.

    Not sure where to start in becoming mobile friendly? Ask your customers! Consider using mobile surveys (like ours here at On The Spot Systems) on your website that are smartphone and tablet friendly and extremely easy for consumers to use.

    Ask your customers visiting your website on their smartphones and tablets (you can target showing the mobile experience survey using browser detection) Ask them if they think the experience is mobile friendly, what pages or sections of your site need the most attention to be user-friendly, and what they need to be improved before they consider using your site on mobile frequently.

    Then, you'll have a starting point where you can begin your rollout of redesigned mobile web properties with user-experience in mind. Need help? We're here to coach you on delivering your customers the best user experience possible across every device- mobile and otherwise! 

    Inevitably, the path to purchase has become much more complex with the advancement of digital media.

    While buyers once heavily relied on word of mouth recommendations, they now have a proliferating number of channels to research and evaluate who or where to buy from.

    This is especially confusing for business owners, who must adapt to all the directories, social media sites, and apps that people are using to find local businesses.

    Considering the kind of decisions consumers are making and how they are making them, we've architected an infographic to map out the many stops on the path to a final purchase.

    digital-path-to-purchase-infographic-copy.jpg

    (Update (05/11/13): On May 10th LinkedIn posted this announcement on the LinkedIn blog: "At LinkedIn, we're committed to putting our members first so we want to let you know we're planning to update LinkedIn's Privacy Policy in the next week." Read the full post here.)

    At this point I think that any person that joins a free social network is probably aware that nothing is really free. Even though no money changes hands, when you sign up for a social network account a transaction is initiated.

    Your personal data in exchange for access to the network. If the social network provides an understanding of how your data is used, and provides clear instructions for using privacy and opt-out features there is little to object to.

    You want free services, both parties agree on a payment method and the transaction is completed.

    The folks at naked security sum it up this way:

    You're really agreeing to sell those organisations the right to accumulate, index, commercialize, and in some cases sell on to third parties, information about who you are, what you do, when you do it, and how you choose to talk about it online. You get to populate the databases from which they make revenue; in return you get to use the service.

    In that sense, you aren't so much a user or a customer of most "free" sites. You're really just an informal employee, paid in kind. That's worth remembering.

    The level of transparency as to how and when your data is used has been in constant evolution since the Internet was born, but clear examples from recent history include the legal challenges faced by Google and Facebook as they continue to grow. To date, LinkedIn has not met the same strenuous legal challenges as their competitors and this is surprising since they appear to walking down the same path as Facebook and Google.

    Facebook had a variety of confusing privacy settings and they have simplified them and made efforts to provide clear explanations about how data is shared on the network. Google has several social media platforms and a while back they consolidated privacy policies and user privacy setting.

    Some people objected to this, claiming it actually compromised privacy but if we accept Google's explanation at face value, it seems they are trying to eliminate confusion resulting from different settings on different networks.

    I can't really say that Facebook or Google are model citizens when it comes to your privacy, but they do make the relationship clear and offer options that allow you to reduce your exposure and opt-out of certain features. By leaving optional fields like employment and address blank, combined with prudent choices about what you share as comments and posts you can exercise a good bit of control over your exposure.

    By comparison, LinkedIn seems stuck in the 90′s with a convoluted system of member privacy settings that offer little documentation to help members understand how to use them properly. You can get an idea of how LinkedIn prioritizes member privacy by looking at where it is placed in the navigation menu. Both Facebook and Google+ have "Privacy" or "Privacy Settings" prominently displayed in the first level of menu selections. On LinkedIn, you must click settings, before you can see Privacy Controls by selecting the Profile tab. This may seem trivial but to me the design of the menu indicates priority, and privacy gets no mention up front.

    LinkedIn recently launched a Safety Center. The Safety Center offers advice on external threats like phishing and malware but does not have a section that offers advice on personal security and privacy settings for member accounts.

    The section on Identity Protection discusses external threats like email but provides no information about how to protect your identity on LinkedIn or how to manage your privacy settings. If you are trying to find the new Safety Center, you would have to navigate to the Help Center first (under "More"), then you see a link to the Safety Center.

    Let's compare LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook to determine which networks provide the most useful information on managing privacy settings.

    • Google+ : Know your Google security and privacy tools.
    • Facebook: Privacy - Get the information you need to control your sharing on Facebook.
    • LinkedIn: Privacy Policy (revised May 13, 2013)

    LinkedIn does have a Privacy Policy, but it's more of a PR/Legal document and it includes some statements that do not appear to be accurate based on how the site actually functions.

    Facebook and Google take a beating on privacy issues and they have certainly earned it. Not many people would think of LinkedIn the same way but that's not because LinkedIn has better privacy. It's because LinkedIn just ignores member complaints about stalking, harassment and privacy. They don't talk about it, they don't address it. LinkedIn seems reluctant to tackle any issue that might not reflect well on the LinkedIn brand.

    LinkedIn has a tiered privacy system that restricts data visible to members that are not connections, but there are different levels within your "personal network" where your data may be revealed to persons even if they aren't a direct connection. I've never found any documentation that offers a comprehensive breakdown that explains this and it's clear that LinkedIn members find this system confusing.

    The Help Center has a page titled "Your Network and Degrees of Connection" but that page does not explain which member activities or profile details are revealed to the different levels. Remember that, depending on your settings you may also be broadcasting changes to your job title, employment, groups you have joined, new connections, etc.

    Harassment and Stalking

    That issue pales in comparison to serious issues like harassment and stalking. LinkedIn claims to be "world's largest professional network" and the intricate connection system gives members the impression that it's a safe environment. Many people treat LinkedIn like an electronic resume and provide details they would never consider adding to their Facebook page or Google profile. Some members subscribe to paid premium accounts with the presumption this provides better access to customer service.

    You would think that LinkedIn would respond quickly to any reports of harassment or stalking and that they would provide members with the tools needed to protect themselves. That is not the case. If you are being harassed or stalked on LinkedIn you have little recourse. In fact, there are no blocking mechanisms available to LinkedIn members at all. Even if you create a support ticket to report harassment you will be told by customer service that they can not block another member from contacting you or viewing your profile.

    Here's a response from LinkedIn Customer Service regarding a recent experience of my own:

    Unfortunately, you can't block a specific group member from messaging you. You can prevent all group members from sending you messages through the group from the "Your Settings" option in the group's More tab. If you do not share a group and are not connected, they can't contact you, except through InMail or Open Messaging.

    In my case, communication was initiated through a LinkedIn group and if you reviewed the page titled: "Your Network and Degrees of Connection" you see that LinkedIn says that fellow group members are considered part of your network. Ok, not a problem I guess if a group member becomes abusive or a stalker joins a group to harass me I can just leave the group and break contact, right? Actually no. Here's another excerpt from the same customer service inquiry.

    I'm sorry for the frustration this is causing. If the line of communication was opened while sharing a group, the communication may continue.

    Other major social networks have a blocking mechanism, LinkedIn doesn't. Even an appeal to customer service is futile, they basically just put their hands up and say sorry we can't do anything about it. My experience with this issue is minor compared to women who are victims of stalking and harassment that are trying to use LinkedIn professionally, yet find they are completely exposed by the lack of protection LinkedIn offers.

    One member points out that the only solution presently available is for her to increase her profile privacy settings to such a degree that it becomes pointless to even have a LinkedIn membership:

    I notice many complaints from Women who are often harassed on sites such as this. It is a real issue that should be addressed. Women should not have to worry about someone stalking her without jeopardizing her professional profile. Women in this situation may have to set her privacy so high that it negates the point of this site. Blocking one person would solve that problem. Please reconsider.

    As she points out, in many cases the victims know who is stalking them and just want the ability to block a specific member account from viewing their profile or contacting them.

    Another member makes this observation:

    This is a negligent practice that LinkedIn is conducting. Stalkers have access to your current employer which can give them all kinds of information such as addresses and telephone numbers. I would suggest that LinkedIn make this change. I believe not having this function available is irresponsible on LinkedIn behalf by not recognizing the seriousness of this issue and contributing to possible criminal activities.

    There are a number of discussions in the Help Forum that bring up this issue and the complaints aren't just from women who are victims of stalking and harassment. One gentleman offers these thoughts:

    LinkedIn is lacking some key privacy features, which is one reason I hardly use this site, and rarely recommend others. Members should easily be able to block messages from any individual member, and also should block profiles from any individual member.

    Connection Privacy

    One of the features that sets LinkedIn apart from other networks is the amount of control you have over who you connect with and who can connect with you. LinkedIn puts up a number of hurdles to potential contacts, and if you have ever tried to connect with someone you have had to prove to LinkedIn that you know that person. Every time we try to connect with someone, LinkedIn gently reminds us:

    Important: Only invite people you know well and who know you.

    Invite  to Connect

    LinkedIn: Invite to connect

    LinkedIn subverts their own system when they present you with "People you may know". You've probably seen this pop up after you accept a connection invite and this screen presents you with the option to send a connection invite to any member displayed through a single mouse click.

    This is one method that a complete stranger can use to send you a connection invitation.

    Think about that for a minute... you could actually know someone and if you initiate the connection invite, LinkedIn will ask you to prove that you know them. On the other hand, if LinkedIn thinks you may know someone, you can bypass all the useless formalities. I have no idea who most of the people are that are presented during these opportunities, many seem to have no common interest, shared group or demographic. So much for privacy through exclusivity. During these moments, LinkedIn also seems to toss their own advice out the window... "Only invite people you know well and who know you."

    Some people have learned the hard way that using LinkedIn to manage contacts is a very bad idea. Here are a few recent examples from the Help Forum:

    It seems there are a few issues going on in these discussions and some may be cases where individuals authorized LinkedIn to import contacts and failed to notice an option to send invitations to contacts that aren't on LinkedIn. If you examine the comments closely you will see that many members claim that is not what happened to them.

    Linkedin is sending invitations out & accepting invitations on my account to / from people I have never heard of or had any contact with. This is absolutely unacceptable, must be corrected, apologized for, and corrected expediently!

    When this happens, LinkedIn will send an invitation to join LinkedIn and two reminder emails.

    I have more than 1500 contacts and all my contacts are receiving LinkedIn invites on my behalf, i have received complaints from many of my contact who very pretty upset with this recurrent reminders.

    Your business associates and friends that do not have LinkedIn accounts may forgive you for sending a single invitation by accident. We all mess up and they may have done the same thing themselves. I did something similar a while back when I was working on organizing my contacts in Google+ and I sent about 200 people invites to join that network.

    The problem is that LinkedIn sends an invitation and two reminders. Your contacts will consider that spam, and they are going to blame you.

    This is a blog post about privacy, and you are probably wondering how this invitation issue/glitch pertains to that, right? Well consider the previous information about victims of harassment and stalking as you read this member comment in the discussion titled: "STOP AUTO INVITES"

    I have gone on this site because the same thing has just happened to me. Only I didn't realise it had happened until many hours later and now one of the invites I have unwittingly sent has gone to an identity thief whose email address was unbeknown to me still in my hotmail account from 5 years ago. I am terrified that this man, having had access to all my links for most of a day (bearing in mind he accepted of course, no doubt immediately) will do something dreadful to me again. I have to find a way of knowing whether he has sent connection requests to my contacts, if all else fails I will have to close my account too.

    Note that you might have contacts in your email address book that you didn't add personally. Depending on settings, addresses could be added to contacts if you reply to them or take other action. Depending on the option you choose, the LinkedIn import connections function may pull contacts from an online webmail account instead of your local email client. Review listed contacts and purge any un-wanted contacts before you use this feature. Example: You may have deleted your ex-boyfriend's email address from Outlook, but he could still be in your contacts online in your Gmail account. If you import those contacts and send him an invitation to join LinkedIn - he may think it's "on" again.

    Is this a user error, software glitch, or an intentional breach of trust to exploit member contacts to bring more members to LinkedIn? Before any accusations are leveled at LinkedIn we should review their response to the issue.

    There is no response, they appear to be ignoring this issue completely.

    I reviewed every page of the discussions linked to above and I could not find one comment by a LinkedIn Help Forum moderator. The Help Forum is a replacement to the Answers forum and for the most part its members helping members so there is no requirement for a moderator to address any issue. Moderators participate in some discussions, offering a link or talking about upcoming features. Sometimes they offer advice or correct mis-information provided by other members. I just want to point out that their assistance is conspicuously absent from these discussions.

    Many members have indicated they submitted a support ticket for this issue, and when they could not get a decent answer to their request for help from Customer Service, they joined the member discussion in the Help Forum. You would think that with this many unhappy members LinkedIn would move quickly to resolve the issue and provide clear instructions on managing connection invites.

    There is some hope for individuals that authorized LinkedIn to connect to their Gmail account and have caught this issue early on - you can revoke LinkedIn's connection to your Gmail account. Follow these steps to revoke access:

    1. Log into your Gmail/Google account and select Privacy
    2. Under "Connected applications and sites" click "Manage access"
    3. Under "Authorized Access to your Google Account" find LinkedIn and click "Revoke Access"
    4. Here's the direct link.

    Breaking the connection with LinkedIn will stop the second and third round of invites from being sent out if you catch it soon enough. The first round of invites will already be in the email in-boxes of your contacts.

    Members can withdraw connection requests but this must be done for each invitation. Members who sent hundreds of requests can submit a support ticket and ask LinkedIn to withdraw the requests but one seasoned member notes that:

    If you opt to let LinkedIn Customer Service do the "withdraw" process, bear in mind it now takes LinkedIn Customer Service staffers at least 7-10 days to get to and process any service ticket, and all service tickets are handled on a strict FIFO basis regardless of where the service ticket originates. In the meantime LinkedIn will continue to send out reminders, which are sure to prompt even more recipients to click on the "I Don't Know" option, and that will make it even more likely LinkedIn will restrict your account.

    Another serious issue hinted at in that member's comment is that LinkedIn only allows members a lifetime quota of 3,000 invites. To add insult to injury, current LinkedIn members that receive automatically generated invites can select "I don't know this person" as a reply to your invite. The number of "IDK's" you receive is used by LinkedIn as a flag that marks you as a "connection spammer". This is one of the types of spam addressed in the Safety Center.

    Privacy in Members Only Groups

    There are two types of groups on LinkedIn: Members-Only and Open Groups and LinkedIn states that in members only groups: "Discussions are visible to group members only."

    I'll get back to that in a second, first a quick review. We know that when you join a group, other group members are considered part of your network. Discussions you start in open groups can be viewed by anyone on the Internet and can be indexed by search engines. If you're worried about privacy, you should already be well aware of the fact that anything you say in a discussion, comment, or status update on any social network is something that could end up being viewed by anyone. People get fired for the stupid stuff they say on Facebook and Twitter.

    If you join a members-only group (sometimes referred to as a closed group) on LinkedIn, you might feel that you have an additional layer of privacy because LinkedIn states that: "Discussions are visible to group members only."

    That's not really true because:

    • Anyone that is a member of the group, including competitors, your boss, jealous spouse, etc. can just copy/paste your comments to the group. They can also print entire discussions to a PDF file or use their browser print function. You should already know this but some people forget this and LinkedIn doesn't go to any effort to point this out in their information about groups in the Help Center or Safety Center.
    • All groups produce an email digest. As a group member you can change you settings to turn off digest emails so that you don't receive them, but they are still available to everyone else. The group owner has no control over this and there is no option in the group administration settings to switch off digests for an entire group. That means that the comment you made about how big an idiot your boss is can be forwarded to him via email in a couple of mouse clicks. It doesn't even matter if your boss isn't on LinkedIn, someone else can just forward the email digest. Maybe you don't talk trash about your boss. Good for you! Maybe you are a member of an industry group and you are discussing company procedures with your peers. Do you realize that your competitors may be listening in on that conversation?

    You should be smart enough to think of these things and protect yourself, but I also think that LinkedIn could offer some practical privacy advice in their Safety Center. Why don't they? I don't think that's a priority for them, do you?

    Bugs in LinkedIn Cause Privacy Issues

    glitch-Profile_Views

    If you're one of the many people annoyed by the fact that other members can view your profile anonymously, here's a glitch that offers a bit of karmic payback to profile stalkers. LinkedIn has a lot of bugs and glitches and if you use the site on a daily basis you probably are no stranger to error messages and features that seem to break for a while then start working again. In the image above you can see that I've clicked the notification flag and it is displaying information on people who have recently viewed my profile. See John on the left? When I click on "Who's viewed your profile" his identity was hidden. It seems that John didn't want me to know he was checking out my profile, but a glitch in the notification system gave him away.

    I haven't been able to get this glitch to repeat but I've seen similar issues when navigating the group administration menu. Individuals that had their profile pictures hidden, are revealed under certain circumstances when I review group discussions. Just remember, you might think nobody can see your profile photo, but that doesn't mean a bug in the LinkedIn website won't reveal it anyway.

    Overview of LinkedIn Privacy Settings

    LinkedIn privacy settings - profile

    LinkedIn privacy settings - profile

    Most of the privacy settings can be accessed from the Profile tab after you click Settings from the main page. Something to note, you actually have two profiles on LinkedIn. One that LinkedIn members can view, and a public profile. Your public profile can be viewed by anyone on the Internet and may be indexed by search engines so pay close attention to your settings.

    privacy-groups

    Under the Groups, Companies & Applications tab you can review the list of applications connected to your account. Remove any that you do not recognize or that you no longer use.

    LinkedIn privacy settings - account

    LinkedIn privacy settings - account

    Additional settings are listed under the Account tab. Protect your account with a strong password!

    LinkedIn privacy settings - https

    LinkedIn privacy settings - https

    Under the Account tab you will also find the setting to enable HTTPS access. If you access LinkedIn on a laptop over a wi-fi network you need to have this enabled. In fact, there really isn't any reason I can come up with to not have this enabled so just do it.

    Groups - display icon

    Groups - display icon

    If you're worried about stalking or harassment you might also want to turn off group logos that are displayed on your profile. Remember that according to LinkedIn, fellow group members are considered part of your network so a stalker could just look at what groups you're a member of, then join them to send harassing messages to you.

    Remember my experience with customer service? Once someone initiates contact through a group, you can't break that contact even if you leave the group. And... there is no block function so if you're worried about stalkers, hide your groups. You have to change that setting in each group you are a member of. The group logo is visible by default when you join a new group so remember to turn it off.

    Wouldn't it be nice if all of those privacy settings were organized on a single page?

    Wouldn't it be nice if the Safety Center explained how they work? Some settings offer no explanation of what they do or how they impact your privacy. Take a look at "Turn on/off data sharing with 3rd party applications" under the groups tab. What does that do? It sounds important doesn't it? Should I have to go digging around in the Help Forum or create a Customer Service ticket to ask what a profile setting does?

    Thanks for reading through to the end. Your comments are welcome

    Just wanted to bring to your attention the new funding that we have received, and how we will use it.

    "Business listings management startup Local Market Launch, launched in 2012 by ValueClick founder Brian Coryat, has secured $1.5 million in Series A funding from Rincon Venture Partners, adding to $1.2 million of founder contributed seed funds, bringing total capital raised to $2.7 million.

    The funds will be used to support rising demand for Local Market Launch's local presence solutions by multi-location national brands and small and medium-sized businesses. Local Market Launch will also accelerate development and delivery of its partner-branded solutions for local media channel partners.

    A recent study by Google/Nielsen revealed that 73 percent of mobile searches trigger additional action and conversions, such as store visits, calls and purchases.

    Accurate business listing information is the unassuming workhorse underlying much of today's local commerce, which is being driven by mobile and online search.

    "Despite the digital revolution of the past 20 years, many businesses, especially small local establishments, have largely been left behind," said John Greathouse, general partner, Rincon Venture Partners.

    "As such, there is a tremendous opportunity for Local Market Launch to become the trusted business listings management partner for the world's small, local businesses, and for national brands targeting locally.

    When Brian founded ValueClick, he ingrained in the organization the principles of over-delivering value to its customers by consistently developing killer technology and providing unparalleled service.

    We believe that Local Market Launch will likewise achieve market dominance by following this simple, but difficult to execute, strategy."

    Coryat founded Local Market Launch to raise the level of quality in business listings data and service. He brings rich experience earned at the forefront of the Internet marketing industry, where he has led several successful ventures, including online advertising company ValueClick, for which he was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2000 for ecommerce.

    "It's time to take business listings management to a new level of accuracy and trust, and Local Market Launch is committed to raising the bar," said Coryat. "We're excited by the tremendous interest we're receiving from national brands, multi-location businesses and franchises, as well as channel partners, and we're truly gratified by Rincon Venture Partners' confidence in our technology and our vision for the company.

    With their backing, we will be able to accelerate our growth and fulfill our mission, which is grounded in our commitment to the highest quality standards for our data and customer service."

    About Local Market Launch

    Local Market Launch delivers next-generation business listings management and local presence solutions for national brands, multi-location businesses and franchises, and local SMBs through a growing network of channel partners, including directory publishers, newspaper publishers, broadcast media companies, digital media agencies and certified marketing representatives (CMRs).

    The company is driving new standards of quality and service through a hybrid approach to business listings management that combines the best of DIY technology with the quality-controlled ease of a do-it-for-you solution.

    Learn more at www.localmarketlaunch.com,www.localsearchoptimization.com, on Twitter @LocalLaunch and @LocalSearchOpt, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/localmarketlaunch and Google+.

    When you look for a new doctor these days, how many Asian doctors do you find?

    How many engineers, professors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and CEOs?

    Did you know South Asians generally over-index the US National Average in just about every meaningful consumer category?

    Are businesses ignoring the marketer's dream come true?

    What are the prejudices and biases that are holding companies back from reaching this higher income, more educated, larger families and growing market?

    Check out these Census facts:

    • With 14.5 million Asians in the US, up 43% from the last census, Asians are the fastest growing minority group, very affluent and high educated, with household income 26% above Whites.
    • Asian Americans have the highest educational attainment of any group, 49% have at least a bachelor's degree (vs. 28% US avg). They also have the highest household income levels of any racial demographic at $65,637 (vs $38,885 US avg) with 28% exceeding $100K.
    • South Asian population has doubled in the last decade. Indian population, specifically, has grown 70%. And 67% of all Indians have a bachelor's or higher degree. Almost 40% have a master's, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average. 1 in every 9 Indians in the US is a millionaire, comprising 10% of all US millionaires.
    • South Asian households are 29% larger than the national average. And 93.6% speak English.
    • Although Iran is not technically considered "Asia" by Census, I'll include for my loyal Persian readers: 51% of Iranian-Americans have a bachelor's or higher degree, and 1 in 4 hold Masters or PHD. An NPR report recently put the Iranian population of Beverly Hills as high as 20%. Almost 1 in 3 households have annual incomes of more than $100K (compared to 1 in 5 US Avg). According to a study carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Iranian scientists and engineers in the US own or control around $880 billion.

    So when you think or speak of multicultural branding or strategy, are you ignoring this fastest growing group? What marketer wouldn't want to reach a more educated consumer with higher income and larger families without a re-deployment of marketing dollars?

    The 2010 census data reported, of the 27.3 million added to US population in the last decade, only 2.3 million were Whites. While Hispanics accounted for well over half our gains, Asians made the next biggest contribution.

    There is an absolute decline of white population under 18, as well as somewhat smaller decline of black youths. Hispanics, Asians, and multiracial children accounted for all of the net growth of nation's youth. And I believe the Asian numbers are under-reported through Census, since there is a big debate about race versus ethnicity.

    The world "Multicultural" was intended to represent a mosaic of different cultures in one platform. But somehow it became a buzzword limited to initiatives toward Hispanics, as "Diversity" did the same with African Americans.

    That's why I coined the phrase "New World Marketplace" to represent a new type of customer-influencing mainstream culture. It's important to recognize that various multicultural values have now become part of the fabric and reality of American society.

    Here are 10 easy tips to get started that will apply to all multicultural branding and positioning:

    • Learn how much of your current sales volume is being generated by multicultural customers. It may be more than you think.
    • Then, learn exactly what demographic groups you could and should target for your products and services. How much sales potential in each market?
    • Get to know your existing and new targets. You can only do so by spending days in the life of your customers.
    • It all starts with the great product, which transcends all cultural differences. Make sure you have the right product and services and you are speaking to the needs and values of the customers who are actually buying them.
    • Research and research more. Not just about product attributes, but also about how your new customers want to feel and be treated as a part of the totality and oneness of the market.
    • Consult with experts. I am one of so many. Learn to use the right cultural symbols to avoid offending the very people you're trying to attract.
    • Sharpen your sensitivity to cultural standards and taboos. Dig deeper into the values and beliefs and leverage on "shared" values.
    • Avoid all stereotypes and clichés. Design your marketing materials to depict multicultural customers in a wide variety of roles.
    • Include a multicultural budget in your 2012 budget. Link compensation to multicultural performance for the sake of profit growth.
    • Be authentic, honest, respectful and consistent. Once you open the doors to build the relationship, stay the course to maintain the relationship.

    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]

    In a recent study by the CMO Council, in partnership with Balihoo, 59 percent of national brand CMOs surveyed said localized marketing is essential to the growth and profitability of their business.

    Yet only 7 percent of the brands believe they have "highly evolved campaigns and measurements in place to activate customers at the local level."

    A number of factors--from budget constraints and lack of resources (43 percent cited lack of resources and bandwidth to coordinate with multiple regions, local marketers, partners and agencies), to the desire to tightly control brand assets in local marketing campaigns--have hampered the local marketing aspirations of national brands.

    Local Marketing Automation

    One of the keys to overcoming these challenges lies in the adoption of local marketing automation technologies.

    The CMO Council study revealed 94 percent of brands currently use primarily manual methods to track compliance and application of their brands at the local level.

    Manual approaches are simply no match for the ever-increasing number of digital channels publishing local business information today.

    It seems that national brands recognize this, as 30 percent of the CMOs surveyed said they intend to invest in local marketing automation technologies to overcome their bandwidth, budget and brand asset control issues.

    Local Presence for National Brands

    One area of local marketing automation that addresses branding objectives and helps drive local traffic for national brands is business listings management.

    An important first step for national marketers targeting locally is to ensure their local partners and affiliates can be found in local online and mobile searches.

    Syndication and publication of consistent and enhanced business listings of local partners will go a long way toward helping national brands increase their local findability.

    What's more, the increased traffic resulting from national brands' local business listings management efforts, should help brands win the hearts and minds of their local partners, making them more inclined to support additional local marketing initiatives.

    If anyone is wondering why your posts or comments have suddenly gone into moderation and hang up in pending when before you were able to do so in real time, blame LinkedIn Corporate and not your moderator.

    This problem is caused by LinkedIn's heavy hand, while trying to deal with spam from the top down and as usual nothing works well top down when you are not in the trenches dealing with the issues of a given group as the moderator or owner.

    What LinkedIn did was to override all of the group settings of the owners of the discussions, as if they were not capable of dealing with their own groups. LinkedIn's new "so called spam tool" did not do what was intended as it was not tweaked in the correct way, but caused havoc in many groups.

    The problem with spam or steak is "where's the beef"? Pardon the pun, but one persons spam is another's beef so I can see how it can be tough for group owners to deal with this. The further problem, as I see it, with group members who's posts I sometimes read, some are simply offended by seeing a post that is made by someone else that they do not think is relevant to them personally and rather than pass it by they start a pitched battle in the discussion group. Crazy yes, but it happens.

    There is also the occasional moderator who feels that one does not have the right to promote their books or businesses but that the group is purely for information only and totally free of any commercial intent. I try and stay away from those as much as possible, as most of us are here to promote something, whether an artistic endeavor or a commercial one.

    Some group owners became overwhelmed with this new policy so that it virtually put a halt to all posts, including the good, the bad and the ugly, no matter which.

    One owner was so overwhelmed that his "pending" file was backlogged by weeks of posts awaiting moderation and was close to 400 submissions before he asked for my help and I gladly offered it, clearing the deck.

    Was I accurate? Who knows, but at least I erred on the side of caution and compassion for the poster unlike LinkedIn who simply erred.

    All it takes is being dropped from a group by an owner and without warning.  Quite a while back I was dropped by an owner, which is what got me in trouble with the LinkedIn geniuses. As much time had passed with me forgetting I was there once before, I went recently to join the group again and was unable to.

    When I contacted the owner as to why this was so, her reply was she "had no idea why I was dropped".  This points to how easy it is for one member to whine about "discussion purity" re another's post and for a group to ban one without warning or further discussion.  What more than likely happened was that a writer felt that once his/her book was written any conversation about how to produce or market it was irrelevant.

    This of course flies in the face reality as well as of the many discussions caused by some of my posts and the kind comments I receive for providing useful and helpful information regularly from design through promotion.

    Then there was the case of another LinkedIn member, who in fact blogged about this experience elsewhere, who contacted the group owner on several occasions about pure spam resulting with the owner simply getting annoyed by being contacted and dropped the member.  I can recall one case where recently I left a group when the owner clearly told me how overwhelmed he was with his large multitude of members to bother hearing from me at all re my issues.

    The bottom line is that LinkedIn did not think this through to the end and therefore members are suffering the unintended consequences of LinkedIn's actions. Their "so called algorithm" was the simple dictum, if for whatever reason, justified or not, a group owner drops a member one is banned to "moderation", dumping the work load onto the group owner to undue LinkedIn's broad swath of the brush.

    When someone is dropped from a group it may have been done because a member or two whined about "purity" of content.  Further compounding this is the sometimes failure of the owner to converse with the member in question prior to dropping them.

     What could linked in have done in order not to be faced with this heavy handed result? They could have automatically sent out emails to anyone being dropped prior to any action. They could also have used a more intelligent "algorithm" than the idiot one they used, such as after first an auto response type email to anyone posting a simple link without any intent on discussion, like one I am sure many of you have seen emanating out of China, Japan or India such as "buy cheap handbags" and then a shortened link address to click on. Now links such as these are clearly "missing the beef"!

    Hopefully LinkedIn will rescind or amend their policy here and undue the havoc created for some who are valued contributors and discussion owners.

    I may be the only person up to this point to not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It's not that I don't support either. In fact, I encourage our sales team to utilize social media.

    I'm on LinkedIn and have found the groups I interact with to be extremely informative. So, why have I resisted diving into others? Part of it is my commitment to communication or, in some cases, the lack thereof.

    My biggest concern was not being able to keep up. I have personal and business e-mails, texts, and voicemails. I wonder if I would be able to keep up with it all if I added a Facebook and Twitter to the mix.

    While it's all pushed to one device, I still have to respond to everything.

    My second and greatest concern is the lack of personal communication. I labeled one of the chapters in my book "Put Down the Blackberry Before You Dot Another 'I' Bob Cratchett" for a reason.

    I believe electronic communication has altered the way we communicate, and while there are many advantages, I am concerned with the smart phone replacing face to face contact.

    My co-author and I went around multiple times during this chapter. Why? He's in his early twenties and has grown up in an electronic computer world. I believe an e-mail or text saying "I can't make our breakfast meeting" is great compared to the call when you are five minutes from the restaurant.

    It's terrific to send an e-mail at 11:00 pm, without the worry of waking someone up, and have the person shoot back a response when they see it. However, I am a firm believer that nothing replaces face to face meetings or phone contact when possible.

    Call me old fashion, but I believe you build a better, stronger relationship when communicating in person.

    In fact, I had a mobile phone when they were still attached to the car. It was the size of a house phone, and it cost about $500 a month in minutes, and something we called roaming.

    What concerns me about becoming more social is watching everybody becoming less social. Sometimes I am watching a game, my kids and I are all on our laptops. I'm working. They're socializing with their friends on both their laptops and phones. I remember a day when you watched a game and talked about what just happened, not texting or tweeting about it.

    One of the guys on my sales team said, "Tim, my kids are watching what their fantasy team is doing while watching a game."

    I'm no better. I receive an e-mail during lunch, while in the field, and I answer it. The person I'm traveling with is doing the same thing. I'm not alone in my concern.

    I hear from people all the time about how they are concerned with our next generation, their relationships, and lack of personal contact. I believe that electronic communication can be misinterpreted as easier than a call or in person conversation. Today people break up in text messages, but let's face it , back in the day people sent a break up letter.

    Are we different, more advanced, too advanced, too connected, or not connected enough? I can't answer that question, but I'm diving in to find out.

    Friend me, follow me, I will follow you and maybe we will find out some answers together on how to remain "social" in the world of social media.

    Facebook: facebook.com/tim.burns.98478 Twitter: twitter.com/TimBurns212

    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]

    When it comes to considering the use of call tracking numbers and their impact on local search and business listings information, local search optimization practitioners should take a page from the Hippocratic Oath, and "first, do no harm."

    Search marketing specialist Christopher Sheehy of SEO provider Sidewalk Branding recently wrote,

    "Businesses tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to know what marketing tactics work and which ones don't - what tools or services would be good for them, and what's going to hurt them.

    So when a client was asking me about [call tracking] services recently - I went directly to the source and sent them the following excerpt from Google to answer their question.

    "'You should only provide the phone number for the location of the actual local business. Types of phone numbers that should not be included are: call tracking numbers and phone numbers that are not specific to a business location [source].'"

    As Sheehy observed, Google clearly discourages the use of call tracking numbers.

    The reason is, phone numbers, along with business name and address, are the most important pieces of local search optimization data used by search engines to authenticate a local business.

    Sheehy explains, "When the phone number is replaced with a generic number that is not consistent with the local standards - they lose that vital component of authentication.

    Other SEO experts agree about the importance of a business' name, address and phone number.

    As respected local SEO expert David Mihm advises, "Think of them as your business' thumbprint."

    Consistency in your business thumbprint leads to confidence in your business information, which increases the likelihood search engines will rank you, increasing your online "findability."

    As Mihm affirms, "Maintaining absolute consistency with your business information is the key to a successful long-term local SEO strategy."

    The bottom line is that you must protect the authenticity of your business thumbprint. Steer clear of service providers that recommend publishing call tracking numbers as part of your business listings. They are a good tool for some companies. But they are harmful to businesses that rely on the core business listing details that authenticate their local attributes.

    Work with a trusted local search optimization service provider that can bring your online business information up to best practice standards and effectively monitor and manage your business listings going forward, giving you the assurance that you can easily be found online by existing and prospective customers.

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

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

    The bystander effect has been studied in psychology for many, many years. Essentially, this is the thought that in an emergency situation, the more bystanders present, the less likely someone will take action to help. This tends to fall under people's assumption that, in a larger crowd, someone else will step up and help.

    Is this also true in social media? While social media and all that comes with it, including pictures and sharing of every detail in people's observations, can actually help solve crimes in some cases, the bystander effect still rings true in our technological world, though social media seems to give people more of a voice to help out.

    Take, for instance, cyber bullying.

    Unfortunately, this is one aspect of social media that can be very negative. Teens and pre-teens do not fully understand social media and its implications. They still believe often times that they can remain anonymous, perhaps behind a newly created Gmail or Twitter account, to harass and behave poorly on social networks. One piece of "gossip" can spread like wildfire, and the original poster loses control of that message.

    Even when using accounts that require your 'real" identity, they feel that they can post a message and later delete it, and it's forever gone. That can't be farther than the truth, as we know, but it's not fully realized by all using social media.

    When others see this information, do they simply read it and move on, thinking that surely someone will contact the authorities, parents, or school, depending on the situation? Or, are social media users more likely to take action.

    Consider this recent example: a high school couple, who was fairly popular within a large high school setting, got into a very heated argument and broke up. The young man proceeded to lash out and posted a very public Facebook message, even tagging his now ex-girlfriend, sharing very blatant accusations about her.

    These ranged from her stealing money from her parents to buy drugs, how many people she has slept with, and the like. Of course, because it was on a social network and they were popular students, the post went crazy, with hundreds of likes (really?) and comments within an hour. It was deleted within a few hours, but that didn't stop others from talking about it and referencing it.

    Given the bystander effect, I weeded through the comments to see what would be done, if anything, especially given that this was a younger crowd. What I learned was interesting - while the message spread and was talked about, likely for days after the incident, many students stated that they had reported it to Facebook, parents, the school, and authorities. I later learned that this was in fact true and was handled appropriately.

    Perhaps social media can offset the bystander effect, as it seems to give people more of a voice than before. It could be the nature of social media; because you're behind your computer, you're more likely to act on things than a person would be in public?

    This has also rang true for crimes. The media and police have turned to social media to monitor conversations about local situations, and can reach out to those making comments for help. Other times people are very quick to offer tips and information through social media venues.

    There was the case last year where a man had barricaded himself, with hostages, in a building in New Jersey. He posted on Facebook during this time, and people responded with comments, encouragement, and tried to help authorities in ending the situation in the best possible manner.

    It could be that social media can break the bystander effect to some degree; if that is the case, then social media can be very useful for helping those in need. I'd love to see more research in this area to study the true effects social media has on this psychological phenomenon.

    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]

    Five Great LinkedIn Apps

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    Did you know that if you looked around for long enough on the web you'd eventually find fabulous mobile tools that will boost your LinkedIn productivity and prospects? Well now you don't have to go looking - I've found 5 fabulous LinkedIn apps for you and they're FREE.

    Read all about them here.

    1.  HeronBiz - Professional finder - Location Based.

    Nearby.png

    What it does: Location aware, professional networking app (IOS devices only)."We identify the most valuable professionals to you and alert you when they are near."

    Sidesteps privacy concerns by only showing people in your approximate proximity who are directly connected or with similar industry/job title to the you.

    The 2 scrappy start-up Founders Allen Hartwig and Nick Smoot are signing up large organizations (American MENSA, Women In Technology, the Association for Corporate Growth LA) in an attempt to ramp up large scale use of the app.

    A lot of people need to be using it to be truly useful. I found 23 people near me when I tested it. Doesn't sound like a lot but that's 23 more than I knew about, prior to using this app. Enormous potential.

    Has a secure chat feature. This functionality should have been built into LinkedIn's mobile app from the get go.

    It's a no-brainer for anyone with a LinkedIn account wishing to network face to face.

    Try it.

    Get it here: http://hereon.biz

     

    2. Trippit Updates your LinkedIn Community on your Travel Plans

    Trippit.png

    What it does: Links your Tripit account with your LinkedIn account and then automatically shares your upcoming travel plans in your LinkedIn Update stream.

    Why is this is a good thing?

    By alerting your network to an impending visit to their neck of the woods, you increase engagement, opportunity and discovery.

    "The partnership with LinkedIn is a significant victory for TripIt, as this social network has been the most popular one for TripIt users to share their travel plans since the

    MyTravel LinkedIn app was launched in 2008.

    According to the statistics shared by TripIt, 53% of its users visit LinkedIn at least once a week."

    There are IOS, Android, Blackberry & Windows 7 mobile versions. If you travel and you're on LinkedIn, you should be using this.

    Get it here: https://www.tripit.com

      

     3. Card Munch Elegant Time Saver

    Card Munch.png

    What it does: Scans business cards using your iPhone's camera (Android version apparently in the works), recognizes that person and syncs with their LinkedIn Profile.

    Very clever.

    Not only do you get a digital copy of that person's card, you also get their LinkedIn profile, the option to connect, see their connections and an indication of who you have in common.

    You can share that electronic version of the card with whoever you like and email your new contact directly from the app.

    Time saver.

    Get it here: http://www.cardmunch.com

     

     4.  Cobook App  Smart way to handle all social media contacts

    Cookbook.png

    What it does: Unified address book for IOS devices (and Macs) which currently does not officially support LinkedIn integration (something to do with the LinkedIn API and 'low quotas') but there's a workaround - just shake your device in Settings mode and your LinkedIn contacts will appear, like magic.

    You need to give the app access to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for it to do its thing.

    Intelligent aggregator of contacts.

    Get it here: http://www.cobookapp.com

      

    5.  Smartr Another unified address book

    Smartr.png

    What it does: Another unified address book which scans Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo!, Outlook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook (but not Hotmail) for the entire social footprint of your contacts. 3 main tabs: 'Profile' 'History' and 'Common'.

    History is a neat view - it shows you the frequency with which you've interacted via email.

    Common shows those folks you have, in common. Works with Gmail, Outlook, Android & iPhone. Intelligent aggregator with history.

    Get it here: https://www.xobni.com

     

    I also came across an app that would suit the adventurous lunch crowd. LunchMeet  basically broadcasts your willingness to "do lunch" to other LinkedIn users with the same app. It didn't make the cut because for reasons unclear to me, its only available on the Canadian iTunes store.

    Are you using apps that help you get more out of LinkedIn? Please tell me about them via the comment section or email me directly [email protected]

    As always - thanks very much for stopping by and reading. If you found this article thought-provoking, interesting or dare I say, useful. Please go ahead and share it with someone using the share buttons.

    Warm regards from Chicago.

    Andy 

    In light of the recent news that Facebook admitted a bug in the Insights data, there has been quite a bit of conversation on the topic. Somehow, I missed the original news item last week when it was first discussed, but I've caught up to speed today.

    My first reaction was "It's about time!" There have been grumblings since numbers started decreasing, with some originally blaming the new Timeline design rollout and others blaming the new algorithm updates a few months back.

    Now that Facebook is admitting to noting the issue and fixing the "critical bug", conspiracy theories are popping up all over the place.

    Had they listened to user feedback when the numbers first started tanking, they might have gained consumer confidence and possibly noticed the bug earlier on.

    At any rate, the top two schools of thought are:

    1. The stats have continued to drop over time, with more and more users complaining about it, so Facebook "found" the bug in the system, explaining away the lower numbers, promising for more accurate (read = higher numbers) information starting this week.

    2. This was intentional on the part of Facebook - if business pages are showing decreased number of people seeing posts, it will encourage them to promote posts or advertise more heavily on Facebook. This of course means more money for the company.

    At any rate, whether it's a conspiracy or not on the part of Facebook, it remains to be seen what the "real" numbers will look like as the bug has been fixed and more accurate data is on its way.

    I will be watching our Facebook page closely to see if we notice any differences.

    What has been your experience with Facebook insights? Are you noticing any change in numbers this week?

    Are You a LinkedIn Pest?

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    In a recent discussion within the LinkedIn Franchise Executives group a question was asked about how best to present products and services to group members.

    The question stemmed from a revision in group rules put in place to keep the group focused on its objectives of exchanging ideas, sharing information, and promoting best practices within franchising.

    By attempting to eliminate the clutter of self-promotion, MLM opportunities, and even franchise opportunities, revising the rules was seen as the most practical way to retain group members and increase participation.

    Here's the question and my response regarding value-added discussions.

    Question: "Outlining some guidelines is an excellent way to embark and start bringing a format or platform to enhance value to the group, congratulations on your initiative.

    Please tell us at what point information and value added discussions should be introduced to the group in your mind. I think anyone here is interested in gaining value and as well, sharing value, but it all sooner or later leads to developing new business, directly or indirectly, that is mutually beneficial.

    There is a fine line between "advertorials" and "value exchanges".

    Are you able to define further what format, discussion or response you think would serve the reader and the writer (group members) best? "

    Answer: "I believe value-added discussions can be introduced at anytime. However, I do believe it's a social networking best practice to "earn the right" to do so by getting to know group members, participate in group discussions, and contribute to the same.

    Then, based upon a perceived group or industry need, I suggest initiating a discussion about that need (or challenge / issue).

    Certainly, one can lead into presenting within the discussion details of their product and how it could satsify the need, address the challenge or resolve the issue.

    The key is not to immediately shove the product or service down members' throats.

    I believe what is often overlooked or ignored, is that group members, especially ones being sold to, have knowledge about franchising, are aware of the needs, challenges and issues the industry is facing, and may actually be aware of the companies providing services and products in the area of concern.

    What they may not be aware of is the person presenting a company's products and services. And, people buy from people, right?

    So, I recommend anyone with the objective of selling products and services be a person first, by developing relationships with group members. Then, be perceived as an expert in your field by sharing knowledge and experience through participation. I believe sales should follow.

    As an added note, I believe the same process works within other social media including Facebook and Twitter, with platform appropriate modifications to plan."

    I've always felt that restaurants have the most to gain in social media, at least for right now.

    After all, social media conversations "began", so to speak, with consumer review sites, such as Yelp, that were mainly restaurant focused at the time.

    People love to eat, and love to share what and where they eat. This is great news for restaurants! The key to success in the future will include being where the customers are when they are looking for somewhere to eat out.

    Currently, that means that restaurants need to be mobile. With so many people continually on the go and making decisions while they're out and about, you have to be visible in the mobile world to be noticed.

    Consider the following statistics:

    • 52% of smartphone users have located a local business' directions or hours of operation while on the go
    • 27% of smartphone users look for local business information on their phones daily
    • 24.2% of smartphone users have used their mobile device to place an order ahead of time at a restaurant

    The infographic below highlights the apps that are most often used with regard to restaurants.

    Take a look at the list and see where your restaurant is.

    If you're not using any of the apps, it might be worth the time to check them out and start using them!

    Restaurant-Apps2.png

    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]

    I have been spending a lot of time on LinkedIn over the last week or so.  

    I have joined a couple of new discussion groups and the conversations have been lively and informative.  

    Being listed in the top 5% of profiles viewed is a great honour, but being one of 10 million, I am not going to let it go to my head.

    Mostly the discussions fall into various types of marketing and it is interesting how passionately people advocate for the medium in which they are invested.

    Everyone talks about the need to communicate with the end user, understand needs, create value of brand, have accurate response mechanisms and develop calls to action that will give you the best return on your investment.

    Okay,  so if we are all in agreement that marketing is to establish brand identity and lead people towards a call to action, why is one way better than all the others?

    My way of seeing things is that different types of people respond to different marketing methods and mediums and messages and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

    The key is to understand the brand, overall strategy and objectives and build an overall strategic marketing plan that communicates these objectives over various mediums, to different audiences, in varied ways, to capture different market segments.

    Take the time to understand who your audience is and what is important to them.    

    People who respond to Pinterest are very different from people who respond to ads in the Wall Street Journal.   Both may be your clients, but to attract both audiences, your message needs to be crafted in a way that elicits response within the medium chosen.

    We will be attending, sponsoring and exhibiting at the Digital Strategy Conference in Vancouver April 23-25th, 2013.

    If you would like to attend, here is a code to get you a 20% discount on the admission price:   promo code BCAIM20

    We hope to see you there so that we can learn together how to develop new and innovative strategies to Get YOU Noticed!

    The post Are you saying the same thing. . . only differently? appeared first on CMYK Solutions Inc..

    LI has announced that it will not allow group owners to deliver the News to their members using RSS feeds.

    LI will stop supporting RSS feeds after March 15, 2013.

    There are no LI plans to allow a substitute for RSS.

    "No further content will be pulled into groups via RSS after that date, and the News Feeds link in the left nav of the Manage tab will go away, as will the homepage toggle to show or hide RSS discussions."

    LI has decided that there is only way way to promote dialogue, the LI way.

    "As Monica Wright aptly put it in her guest post nearly a year ago (http://blog.linkedin.com/2012/03/29/linkedin-groups-publishers/),

    "If you want to promote dialogue and sharing, feed content is not the way to do it." 

    Some LI group owners, moderators and managers feel differently.  And, if you are are one of them, please read on and comment on my workaround.  We can make it work better.

    7 Steps to Better News

    1.  Collect your current feeds from your group.  Go to manage and click on News Feeds, in blue.  (Click on the image to see a bigger picture.)

    RSS Feeds.png

    2.  Get a Free RSS Reader, I use NetNewsWire for Mac.  Create folder and subscribe to your feeds.  (In this example, I am subscribing to all the RSS feeds from Jon Fricke's group on Trucking.)

    Here is a list of RSS feeds, John sent me via LinkedIn email.

    Feeds.png

    3.  Copy and paste each hyperlink into your RSS reader.  You will discover that some of your RSS feeds no longer work, and you might see screen like this or a some other error message.

    FeedBurner Errors.png

    No worries, this means that the RSS feed wasn't delivering news to your LI group.  It is likely that the RSS feed has simply changed.  You need to go back to the source and find out where the RSS feed is now.

    4. This what my RSS reader looks like after I subscribed to all Jon's working RSS feeds.

    Subsciptions.png

     

    5.  The next step is to review the articles and share appropriately in the Jon's group, a step Jon and his moderators can also do.  (I will have more to say on this later in a follow-up article.)

    Here is a fun article, about Catepillar being defrauded in China.  (I picked this article because my skill in detecting this type of fraud - well before it happens.)

    Scam.png

    6.  Finally, let's share it into Jon's groups with the appropriate headline and summary reflecting my take on the story, based on my own experience.

    LI Share.png

    I have changed the title, and found a couple of lines in the story which express what I think is interesting, and shared it with the group.

    7.  Many of you will have read this far and wondered how this was going to work.  After, I just gave Jon a lot more work to do moderating his group!  Yes and no.  How does Jon get his readers in his group to help him moderate these RSS feeds.  Simple: OPML.

    I can export the RSS feeds in NetNewsWire as an OPML list, send it to John.  John then gets to decide who has the privilege of sharing stories into the group and then sends them the official OPML list.  (Sharing other stories could get banned in some groups.)

    Happy to answer any questions in the comments below.  Hope this works for you.

     

    Renee Bailey, of Franchise Direct, and  recently I discussed challenges franchisors face integrating new types of media and how franchisors and franchisees alike could better utilize mediums at their disposal.

    What are some challenges franchises are facing concerning integrating new types of media?

    The biggest challenge franchises face with new media is a lack of understanding that like anything else, requires planning. Many are not taking the time to:

    • develop and explore the various media available
    • identify their targets along with identifying where they congregate and communicate online
    • develop a strategy based upon the targets (which may actually require sub-strategies for each target and their online communities)
    • execute the plan and all that goes into it, including dedication of financial AND human resources in managing and monitoring activity, and of course
    • analyze and quantify results in order to continue moving forward or adjusting as necessary

    Yes, that's a lot to grasp but it is essential to developing an effective program utilizing new media.

    Basically, what I've described is e-IDEA, which is something we utilize religiously when working with franchise clients - Explore, Identify, Develop, Execute, and Analyze. It really is a great, simple guide to follow.

    How do you feel franchisors and franchisees can better utilize the mediums at their disposal?

    By working together, as many franchisees essentially "got there first," meaning they were posting within social media in its early stages. It's important to utilize their efforts as a foundation on which to build a uniform social media or new media program.

    Franchisors should not take a rigid approach with respect to messaging and social involvement. New media is all about interaction and engagement, and as such, requires a "personal" touch at the local level. Of course, there needs to be guidelines and certain policies to protect the brand.

    But that is more common sense than anything.

    Also, I believe franchises shouldn't get all caught up in just driving LIKES. It's more important to create a community of sharing and engagement. I much prefer seeing a Facebook with lower number of LIKES but a high number of post views. That tells me that people are coming back day after day after day to see what is on the page. Whereas just LIKING a page, they may never return. What good does that do?

    There are three reasons to watch the Super Bowl: the game, the halftime show for potential wardrobe malfunctions and the commercials. At an average of 3.5 million dollars a spot, Super Bowl advertisers are the hottest topic before, during and after the big game.

    Whether on a local or national level, one single spot can take a big chunk out of your advertising budget. How do you rationalize spending such a large sum in one shot and generate more than just talk?

    Some may argue quantity over quality. If you're getting the same amount of coverage in your demographic with multiple spots as you would with one spot in the Super Bowl, what's the difference? The difference is the type of viewer you reach in your demo. There are people in your demo who may never watch the programming you purchase annually.

    But the Super Bowl is the largest television audience of the entire year, reaching both the frequent and infrequent viewer. Think of it like people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.

    Bear in mind, strategy alone won't save you if your creative is exhausted.  Here is an example of a great campaign, from our client Health Plus of Michigan.

    Our client, HealthPlus of Michigan, knows firsthand that viewership of this magnitude is an excellent time to launch a new campaign. After building new creative around the Super Bowl in 2012, HealthPlus saw an increase of 174% in their quote requests, and an 88% increase in their online applications from the previous year.

    The increased awareness directly following the game more than justified the cost of the production and the on-air spot.

    Whether anticipating a scandal, entertaining ads or the actual game, the Super Bowl has the power to draw viewers and capture their attention. With the right combination of spot placement and creative, advertising in a high profile event can gain the recognition you may never receive from an typical schedule.

    "You can check out anytime you'd like, but you can never leave....."

     Or so Mark Zuckerberg would like you to think.

     When Facebook made its announcement earlier this week about their Graph Search, it struck me that one of the intents of this project was to provide a place (Facebook) where users can do anything they need to without ever leaving the site. He's even referenced this in the past, and this latest change leads me to believe that he is paving the way to potentially make this goal a reality.

    In short, this Graph Search will let users search for places, items, and other interests based on what their friends like and interact with.

    This is big, as it's been said for a long time now that word of mouth from friends and family means more and influences purchasing decisions much more than any brand advertising that can be done.

    It also falls into line with the success of review sites, product reviews on company websites, and even advertising that has previously been done on Facebook.

    If you've ever run Facebook ads, you know you have the option to market to friends of those who already like your page; a compelling message on the ad says that "Joe Smith and 5 of your friends like this page" - it gives credibility in a way we've become used to thanks to social media conversations.

    You can learn more about Facebook's Graph Search if you have time; they will be slowly releasing the beta version to US users over time.

    In the meantime, you can view a quick tutorial on how it works:

     Here's how Graph Search works:

    • The search bar first returns the top search suggestions, including people, Pages, apps, places, groups, and suggested searches. People can search for things like restaurants near them, hotels in places they want to travel to, photos posted by Pages they like, or games that their friends like to play.
    • These search suggestions take people to a unique results page. The results returned are based on factors that include information that has been shared by your business and the connections of the person searching.
    • As has been the case for some time, we may also make search suggestions in the search bar that then can trigger web searches. Web searches will display Bing results and Bing ads, similar to results on Bing.com.
    • Pages and apps can still use sponsored results, which appear to people whether or not they have Graph Search (sponsored results have been globally available since August 2012). There are no new ad formats available today.

    Time will only tell what effect this will have on social networking; in the meantime, I will patiently wait to get the search released so I can check it out more closely.

    Connect the dots between enterprise marketing, planning, strategy and content with your local business's reach, relationships and trust. Is your social media strategy local? It should be, this ebook explains why. Start empowering your local channel.

    Local Social Media Strategy for the Franchise

    Franchise social media planners in branch-based organizations can take advantage of significant multipliers by going local in a comprehensive social approach. There are three key phases achieve results. This paper will lay out the steps, techniques and rewards of adopting a local social business initiative.

    McKinsey reports that, social media is the "only form of marketing that can touch consumers at each and every stage, from when they are pondering brands and products right through the period after a purchase, as their experience influences the brands they prefer and their potential advocacy influences others"

    McKinsey's research also shows that a direct social media recommendation from a peer generates engagement rates some 30 times higher than traditional online advertising does.

    30-to-1-graphic1.png

    Franchise systems and organizations are particularly well suited to capitalize on social media.

    The question becomes, how do we best implement social media? Your franchise may have remote offices, dealers, franchise locations, or agents, or some mix.  For ease we will refer to these as "branches".

    Branch-based organizations have decided to invest in local markets by placing people, products, inventory, services, and the brand closer to prospects and customers. Historically, local merchants have used word of mouth, advertising and PR to promote their businesses.  They were slow to embrace social media and did not know where or how to get started. Many enterprises, eager to leverage the new social media capabilities, set up fan pages and begin to tally up likes, checkins and followers. Yet, the value of a corporate fan was extremely low. Something was missing.

    To answer this question, research firm Mainstay Salire recently conducted a study employing web crawlers and analytics to track and compare social media activities of corporate fans vs. local fans.

    The study uncovered two interesting findings. First, local fans had five times more reach than corporate fans. Additionally, local fans were eight times more likely to engage with social media than corporate fans. Combining the depth and breadth at the local level led them to conclude that a local fan was worth 40 times more than a corporate fan in value to the enterprise.

    40-to-1-graphic.png

    Planning A Localized Social Media Strategy

    What can you expect in rolling out a localized social media strategy? Check out this free E-book on How To Roll Out a Localized Social Media Strategy and explore the phases in local/social media marketing.

    WordPress is a powerful and easy-to-use content management system for financial advisors and financial firms to publish their thought leadership insights and get found by their target markets. In this post I'll cover 7 reasons why WordPress is indeed your best option.

    First, if you encounter a web design or development company that relies on a proprietary (closed) website platform or system, that is the exact point you should turn and walk away. When it comes to building a scalable and functional online content management system that will benefit your bottom line, nothing beats the open source, flexible, and powerful WordPress platform.

    Building your professional content management system on WordPress will provide you with an immediate advantage over competitors who use proprietary content management systems.

    Here's why:

    1. It's Intuitive

    WordPress has been developed as a platform for the masses -- its developers focus on the concepts of usability and intuitiveness. So although it offers a great deal of power, that power does not come packaged in an incomprehensible interface.

    The learning curve for new WordPress users is extremely gentle, and with a little guidance, you will be finding your way around with no difficulty. This means that you can spend more time on developing your content and your online presence, and less time trying to work out how to use the software.

    2. It's Open Source

    Proprietary content management systems are typically developed by a small team (or maybe even one person). The core WordPress development team can tap into the expertise, knowledge, and input of literally millions of people. This method of crowdsourcing results in a product that truly reflects the market's needs.

    Being an open source tool also makes WordPress a more cost effective solution for both the design and development of your site. This is due to the enormous size and collective knowledge of the community, as well as the tremendous repository of support and resources that exist online for WordPress.

    3. It's Built for Content Marketing

    Creating irresistible content for your ideal clients is critical to attracting leads into your business and building a successful digital presence. WordPress was primarily developed as a blogging platform to make it easy for anyone to be a publisher. Almost all of the established bloggers use WordPress as their engine for publishing and showcasing their thought leadership content.

    The concept of content marketing -- of reaching new prospective clients through online media -- is built into WordPress' DNA. The core functionality of WordPress is aligned with the goal of establishing yourself as the visible expert with existing and new clients. The same cannot be said of many proprietary systems.

    4. Endless Design Options

    When it comes to designing a great-looking site, WordPress has no barriers. You can either have a custom blog and website design created for your site, or, if you don't have the budget for a custom design there are thousands of pre-designed themes that have already been developed for WordPress.

    For example, at Wired Advisor we've developed our own WordPress Theme for financial advisors and financial firms that integrates highly relevant WordPress features and functionality for increasing visibility and cultivating trusted relationships with your target audience.

    Developing a unique "marketing theme" that your blog can be designed around is also critical. Your marketing theme encompasses your brand messaging and positioning, and it will help drive the design and content strategy of your WordPress platform.

    5. Extensibility

    Continuing along the same lines, if you have a specific functionality requirement, I can almost guarantee that WordPress has a solution. The WordPress.org Free Plugins Repository contains over 21,000 plugins alone, each of which can bring extra functionality to your site.

    With so many developers building extended features and functionality for WordPress, any proprietary website software offering is going to have a difficult time keeping up. If there is a feature or functionality you are looking to integrate into your WordPress site, chances are it's available!

    It's important to note that with the hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com) you are unable to install and take advantage of plugins. You will want to make sure you are using the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) for your site.

    With thousands of developers creating tens of thousands of plugins, proprietary systems simply do not have a hope of keeping up.

    6. Great SEO

    WordPress is built with SEO in mind. When you hit publish, you can rest assured in knowing that out of the box your post or page is optimized for rankings in the major search engines.

    There are also very powerful paid SEO plugins such as Scribe SEO (this is an affiliate link) that will allow you to optimize each and every post on your site. You can conduct keyword research and customize your meta titles and descriptions for every page and post you have created. You can also research link building opportunities from within and outside of your site.

    7. Social Media & Email Integration

    You probably recognize by now that social media has become a very powerful force for building relationships and impacting your business! With that in mind, you know that you should do all that is possible to ensure full integration between your content management system, and the major social media platforms you rely on for building your community.

    Fortunately, WordPress has you covered from every single angle. You can automatically share your blog posts with your community on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also add customized social sharing buttons to your content, and showcase your own social media profiles throughout your site.

    Are you using an email platform such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to send email newsletters to your contacts? If not, you should seriously consider doing so. Both of these email platforms integrate beautifully with WordPress allowing you to capture leads on your site and send automated updates of every new post you publish to your list!

    The tight and seamless integration between WordPress, popular social networks, and email platforms can expand your reach exponentially like no proprietary solution can.

    If you're a financial advisor or member of a financial firm and haven't considered WordPress as the core option for building your online foundation, I highly recommend that you consider doing so. These 7 reasons should help you in understanding the value of how this powerful software can help you grow your digital presence! Questions or comments?

    Published at Stephanie Sammon's Wired Advisor originally. You can find Stephanie on Google+

    Whether you are a business owner trying to generate sales for your product or service or a professional trying to advance in your career, Linkedin is your ticket for social savvy success!

    You probably already have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and a blog where you share information about your niche, but are you monetizing the best online business social networking site for corporate executives, business professionals, decision makers, contractors and employees?

    Linkedin is definitely a social media site but it is very different from other "social sites" you have come to know and love. Linkedin is more of a professional networking site. According to Linkedin, there are over 300 million members in over 200 countries.

    See why they are Linkedin and why you should be too!

    Don't expect to see photos of children's birthday parties or cute pets and other idle chit chat you have become accustomed to on Facebook and Twitter. Instead, on Linkedin you are going to see people "taking care of business!"

    Conversations range from professional networking, marketing, online business, and everywhere in between as it relates to business. Anyone on Linkedin is there with a purpose.

    People are on Linkedin to market and share information about their products and services with others, to increase business and gain employment.

    In Closing...

    If you are in business or you are a professional or an employee, you need to be on Linkedin. I encourage you to please go and sign up now if you don't have an account. You can sign up for FREE! They also offer premium accounts for a fee but the FREE account is all you need to get started!

    Supporting You One "Savvy Step" at a Time!

    Share with me below how you have used Linkedin to grow your business or advance your career. Looking forward to hearing from you

    Dr. Sarah David is the Founder of Social Savvy Sarah...A Personal Branding and Social Media Consultancy Providing Social Media Strategies to Build Your Brand and be Socially Savvy! She works with a World-Class Team to provide a "One-Stop Shop" whether you are a "Do-it-Yourselfers" or need "Done for You" services for all of your social media needs. From Fortune 500 corporations to institutions of higher education, entrepreneurs or professionals looking for career advancement, we will help you Build Your Brand and be Socially Savvy! To learn more sign up for her free exclusive personal branding and social media marketing updates at http://www.socialsavvysarah.com

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

    I recently read an article from a career professional that had my head shaking and my voice screaming, "No-o-o-o-o-o!"

    The author presented several simple steps to develop an executive brand, proposing that within 30 minutes you could design a personal brand that would magically work. By answering just five easy questions, an executive would have a personal brand that would make recruiters fall all over you. Voila!

    But that's not how to market yourself as an executive. Having an executive brand that works is the result of a long-term building strategy that takes time, work and effort. What this person presented had nothing to do with the practice of executive marketing.

    For years, I've kept fairly silent about the erroneous and incorrect information that those in the career industry, who do not have a marketing or sales background, have attempt to offer. I generally let it pass because I know that these folks are sincerely trying to be of help. But they are simply wrong.

    In upcoming articles, I am going to provide you with the "how to's" to building an executive brand that works.  This is the first article.

    But first, let's go back and discover what personal branding really is.

    Where Did The Idea of Personal Branding Come From?

    Tom Peters started it back in the late 1990s.

    Peters coined the phrase "personal branding" because he fundamentally saw that employment and work, due to technology, was dramatically changing the corporate landscape.

    He was trying to communicate that employees had to:

    1) start standing for something;

    2) understand the value of communicating and align to the changing market,and;

    3) begin to become an innovator within a company to hold a position in the future.

    He claimed that personal branding was what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work and that it was "the promise of the value you'll receive."

    But just as Peters did with the idea of creating a Mission and Vision Statement a decade and a half earlier, he has to re-claim the idea of Personal Branding, because most "career professionals" or "careerists" have so screwed up what personal branding means that it is now almost meaningless.

    (For an interesting little augmentation to Peters, please listen to his video about Brand You, published in 2010.  You will be glad you did.)

    What Is Personal Branding?

    Branding is a form of differentiation and is based upon a concept. It is the totality of all the elements of a name, logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with a product or service. According to wikipedia, Personal Branding is defined below:

    "Personal branding is, for some people, a description of the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. It has been noted that while previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging (emphasis mine).

    Further defined as the creation of an asset that pertains to a particular person or individual (emphasis mine); this includes but is not limited to the body, clothing, appearance and knowledge contained within, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable. The term is thought to have been first used and discussed in a 1997 article by Tom Peters. "

    Simply put, then, executive branding is the science and art of intentionally designing marketing messages, in multiple ways, to identify who you are, what value you bring to the market or company you work for, and what the brand receiver can expect from you.

    Creating an executive brand must start with creating a concept that makes you different and stand out based upon what the market wants and is willing to pay for.

    People who interact with your executive brand will experience you via your designed messages, will begin to understand that message and eventually will be able to define you whether they know you or not. In each and every interaction an executive has within his or her target audience or niche, the personal brand is built - over time and with sharp intention.

    It is the public perception of you and what the collective message is over time, that you have managed and controlled that defines you and, (this is very important) meets what the market wants, not what you want to sell them.

    Personal branding is a strategy first that is executed orally and delivered in-the-moment.

    You have to own your brand by personifying it, creating attractive reasons to interact with your brand, and continually sell your brand to a targeted audience (not company) that wants to hear it.

    MarketOne Executive Bottom Line

    My definition of personal branding/marketing is to turn strangers into interested parties. This takes time and effort. Selling can only happen after attraction and its purpose is to turn those attracted interested parties into a job offer, a contractual relationship or a sale.

    At MarketOne Executive, we help you to develop a framework for your personal ideas and intellectual property. Intellectual property has value and is able to be identified as having economic capital worth because it can create a return-on-investment.

    Intellectual property also gives you independence. Your personal intellectual property, therefore, must clearly identify you, differentiate you, and align you with the hiring market today.

    From there, we work with you to shape your personal brand orally, first, to attract strangers and power brokers to you. Then we develop the various written marketing materials that are used in selling your brand. We each step has a definable metric and benchmark and is repeatable. We have built tools that you can use, year after year.

    You see, all of the marketing strategies we use are the same ones used by large corporations. All of the marketing tactics come straight out of the corporate branding playbook. The tools are adapted to the personal branding practice, working with you as if you were a big brand product.

    The sales strategies and tactics are come from 30 years proven and tested results in the practice of sales, including negotiations.

    And if you'll notice carefully, most of the respected sources who are cited as furthering the practice of personal are not career professionals but marketers!

    For more tools and information about how to land an $100K+ executive role, read my bio and click on the link to my website, www.MarketOneExecutive.com.

     1.  "The Brand Called You" By: Tom Peters, Fast Company, August 31, 1997.

     2.  "What a Personal Brand is NOT" http://www.tompeters.com/dispatches/010824.php , January 16, 2009.

      3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding

     4. Full Disclosure: Karen Armon holds a MBA and a BS in Marketing with a minor in Mathematics. Her first position was as a sales representative for a Fortune 250 company. She's been employed at well-know companies Shell Oil, Moore Business Forms, Manpower, Cabala's, and Johnson Controls. The first 15 years of her professional career was in sales and marketing until in the early 1990s, she took a technical training position launching her career in human resources. She has been certified as both a Quality Auditor and a Senior Professional in Human Resources (lifetime). She has purchased, and sold, two businesses with and to outside investors. Karen has used her marketing and selling skills to create and brand her company current, MarketOne Executive, recognized in executive circles world-wide.

    About the Author: Karen Armon


    $100K+ Executive-Level markting strategiest, Karen Armon, prepares leaders around the world for their next move. Her popular book, Market Your Potential, Not Your Past is a hit among executives who want a clear-cut, systematic game plan that drives careers forward. Now get her new FREE eBook, "Ten Micro-Trends that Impact Executive Careers Today" at http://www.marketoneexecutive.com/ebook.asp and take a critical look at today's marketplace

     

    This article covers 5 secret LinkedIn strategies that are so useful, you should keep them to yourself.

    There's no magic circle, or weird handshake just keep them between you and me, ok?

    Here are the 5 secret LinkedIn strategies:



    (1) Identify your Semi-Anonymous Browser


    (2) Spot if someone is job-hunting


    (3) Connect with someone you don't know


    (4) Find the best Group to join


    (5) Drag 'n' Drop your Profile Sections



    Identify your Semi-Anonymous Browser

    I've already covered in a previous post the fact that some people on LinkedIn are truly anonymous (if they have a paid account) and some are semi-anonymous. Here's my trick to intelli-guessing the Semi-Anonymous variety. It works more often than not and you can test it for yourself.

    Let me define Anonymous and Semi-Anonymous.

    This person is truly Anonymous (it's greyed-out & cannot be clicked)





    This person is Semi-Anonymous.




    Logic dictates that the majority of people that come by and browse your profile do so because they have something in common with you. In LinkedIn terms that commonality breaks down into 2 major areas:

    (a) Groups
    (b) Connections

    Example (i) Groups (Sales Manager at Sigma Aldrich):


    Claudio Costantini is more than likely my Semi-Anonymous browser, since we share the same Group.


    Example (ii) Groups (Engineer at BMW):


    Fabrice Badaroux is more than likely my Semi-Anonymous browser, since we share the same Group.


    Example (i) Connections (Lawyer at Lincoln House Chambers)





    Richard English is more than likely my Semi-Anonymous browser, since we have a shared connection.




    Example (ii) Connections (Partner at MacRoberts)




    Katy Wedderburn is more than likely my Semi-Anonymous browser, since we have 2 shared connections.




    A few things to bear in mind with this technique of intelli-guessing: sometimes you will have double positives (connections AND groups in common) so highly likely that this person is the culprit.

    Other times, you will have absolutely no commonality and can safely infer that whoever browsed you from the list of potential browsers, that person came across your Profile accidentally or via a route known only to themselves.

    Also, bear in mind that after you subsequently connect with a former semi-Anonymous browser, it does not convert their tracks - in other words it still looks like they were Semi-Anonymous in the history of browsing.

    I've noticed that the person who has browsed usually (more than 70% of the time) appears in the top half of the list. Perhaps this is LinkedIn trying to make the task of networking with Semi's slightly less arduous?

    Spot if someone is Job-hunting


    I share this secret because in my view everyone who is in the 'market' ought to understand just how easy it is to spot if someone is 'looking' for a new job.

    In other words, you need to be extremely careful if you don't want your employer to become aware. LinkedIn loves to share information on what it's netizens are up to.

    Activity Updates publicize the following information about you:

    Adding a new current job position
    Adding a new current school
    Adding a new link to a website
    Recommending someone
    Following a company
    Adding a connection

    The good news is that you do retain ultimate control over the Activity Update Broadcast for the above areas. You can go submarine stealth mode on these activities by turning off the Activity Broadcast altogether (note the warning to job-seekers). This is a safer option than changing the "Activity Feed" to "Only you".

    Note: Joining a group, adding an application to your profile, or updating your photo generates an update that cannot be prevented by turning your activity broadcasts off.

    In other words, even if you turn off your Broadcast, LinkedIn will tell the world that you have engaged in the aforementioned activities. Good to know?

    Here are the typical warning signs that someone is looking to jump ship. A rash of sudden activity, including:

    (1) New Connections. New Recommendations/Endorsements. Joining Groups.
    (2) Filling out a 100% complete Profile.
    (3) Following a Company.

    My advice: Even with your Broadcast turned off, if you launch into full-job-hunting mode, someone will surely notice. Loose lips sink ships. The smarter (and safer) approach would be to:

    • Avoid connecting with recruiters (they get more out of the connection than you do).
    • Fill out your Profile 6 months before you go looking.
    • Don't follow a company unless you have a great reason to follow it for your existing role.
    • Try to spread your connection pattern over a long period of time.
    • If you must do batch-connections be sure to include lots of 'red-herring' connections - folks that seem random and take the spotlight off those important (career-wise) connections.
    • Just be smart about the Groups that you join when you are job-hnuting. Remember - your activity related to Groups CAN NOT BE HIDDEN and is visible to everyone.
    • What do I mean about being smart with Groups? If you are currently located in New York, don't join a Group that is location based and focused on San Francisco. There's no better way to advertise that you are potentially heading west.

    Above all - get familiar with your Settings panel, you need to understand what is public and how to go private.

    Connect with someone you don't know


    A favorite of mine. LinkedIn dictates that you can only connect with people you know and this rule can interfere with 'stranger networking strategies'. How do I overcome this pesky constraint?

    Usually, I connect with people who have viewed my Profile, the theory here is that they have already opened the door (if, of course I can identify the Browser) to connecting.

    The other signal I look for is if they have 500 or more connections. If they have 500+, experience tells me they are more likely than not to connect with me.

    Here is an example with Terrance:


    (i) A General Counsel browsed my Profile. Let's say for arguments' sake I feel sure it was Terrance.


     





    (ii) Only 170 Connections but I hit "Connect".


    (iii) I choose "We've Done Business Together" - Why this option and not the others? The first 2 ("Colleague", "Classmate") are patently false and force you to name the place of work or college you have in common. "Friend" is also untrue and seems out of place on a professional networking site. "Other" forces you to find and add an email address for Terrance as part of the connection request (if you don't share any Groups). The final option "I Don't Know Terrance" would seem perfect in the circumstances but actually results in a scolding when you try to send the connection request. It's a dead end, your hand has been smacked.

    When I use option #3 ("We've Done Business Together") I have the opportunity to build on the theme of doing business together in my message that gets sent to Terrance. I would write something along these lines:

    "Terrance,
    We've actually not done business together yet but I am keen to connect to explore how we may help each other. If you are open, great. If not, feel free to ignore my connection request.
    Sincerely,
    Andy" (40 Words, 214 Characters)

    This technique has helped me to connect with many strangers over the years but it's important to be very clear about your intentions and authentic in your message.

    You also need to be succinct - there is a limit of 54 Words, 300 Characters on this Connection request. It's wise to add the "feel free the ignore" part when you reach out to people you don't know because 'Ignore' is one of the options they see accompanying the Connection Request.

    The third option they see is 'Report Spam', which you've hopefully just nudged them away from. If several recipients of your Connection Request click on 'Report Spam' button this usually means your connecting ability is temporarily suspended until you make a promise to LinkedIn Customer Service to be a rule abiding networker again.

    Find the best Group to join


    Best in the sense that regardless of area, focus, subject matter, great Groups on LinkedIn all share the same 5 characteristics:

    (i) They are well run: zero or minimal spam in the public Discussion area.
    (ii) You are not marketed to constantly.
    (iii) They grow at a decent clip.
    (iv) They have a high Comment to Discussion ratio.
    (v) People you know and respect are also members of the Group.

    Characteristics (i) (ii) & (v) are self-explanatory, I think. Let's look at growth and activity related to Comments and Discussions.

    How does one measure growth? About a year ago, LinkedIn introduced the Group Stats page and in doing so, made choosing Groups a tad more scientific. Here are examples of 2 Groups with very different growth curves:

     


    Which one would you like to hitch your wagon to?


    Comment to Discussion ratio is important because if you have more Discussions than Comments, chances are that the spammers have taken over. See if you can tell the difference (Discussions = GREEN, Comments = BLUE).

     


     

    (I will cover Groups in more detail in a future post (I run 9 of them, 20,000+ members).)


    Drag 'n' Drop you Profile Sections


    The final secret and I'm not sure why it is a secret but LinkedIn have not advertised this option. Did you know that you can re-order any section in your Profile?

    Well, you can and it's really easy to do, once you know how.

    Simply go to "Profile" then "Edit Profile" hover your cursor over any section on your Profile (i.e Summary or Experience) and the cursor will change to a cross with arrows. Click and drag any section up or down and it will re-order your Profile for you.

    This could come in really useful if you needed to highlight a particular section (or wanted to move one further down the list).

    My thanks to Leonid for this tip.

     

    Last Tuesday night, I watched a presentation about a brand that I have followed for over 30 years: Domino’s Pizza. Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications at Domino’s, spoke to a full house at the October meeting of the Michigan Franchise Business Network (FBN). re:group hosts the quarterly meetings as part of our participation in the International Franchise Association (IFA).

    I learned that, as a mature franchise concept, Domino’s had lost their way. Research indicated that their product was not competitive, sales were down and something had to change. So, they began to revisit all of their product ingredients in search of a “new, improved” product. Once they created the new pizza, the challenges to launch were many: How do you get system buy-in? How do you communicate the change externally and prompt people to try a pizza they had come to know over decades? And how do you do this in an environment of social media?

    Speaking of social media, it was a hoax on YouTube that began Domino’s journey on the the path to painfully open and totally honest corporate communications, first with Domino’s U.S. president, Patrick Doyle, responding to an unfortunate event. This occurred just as they were preparing for the new product launch.

     

    Their agency explained that announcing a “new, improved” product was earth shattering in the restaurant business, and that only a fresh approach to breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising would do. Traditionally, advertising presents a polished and positive image and professionally-adjusted food photography. Their solution was to present what they refer to as “the turnaround” of the product in a completely open and authentic manner. In advertising and all communications, actual customers said they did not like the product, actual Dominos staff shared how they changed the product and expressed their ongoing commitment to quality, honesty and openness. It worked. And it was truly unheard of.

    And it still works today. They use social media (Facebook, Twitter) at the national and local levels to engage with customers, rather than push out “deals.” The only screening they do is that they do delete profanity and pornography. Domino’s has even asked customers to open the box and take a photo of their pizza dinner for them to potentially use for national advertising.

    It was a bold move that Domino’s leadership embraced and it has become integral to the company culture and the brand they nurture and protect. It is a great story, and I thank Tim for sharing it at FBN last week.

    Note: Full disclosure; I worked with Domino’s in the early years, producing broadcast and print advertising while at Group 243.

    Who is Checking You Out?

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    It is time to share another one of those underutilized tools on LinkedIn -- that little section on the right-hand side of your home page titled "Who's Viewed My Profile?" This is really a powerful tool for a couple of very simple reasons.

    First, let's talk about the numbers being shared, something like "Your profile has been viewed by 14 people in the last day" or "Yesterday you appeared in search results 11 times." Do yourself a favor and write down what these numbers are each day for a week or two so you have a benchmark. Then hopefully over time you can watch your numbers increase.

    Just think about this: Every time someone looks at your profile, you have sent out a branding message that could lead to a new customer, strategic supplier, vendor, employee or partner. That being said, you should have a plan to move this number up.

    In the "old days," before the advent of social media, we all used to spend some very sizable dollars to increase website hits, viewers of our television commercials, listeners on the radio, numbers like these. We can now do it for very little cost.
    In addition to increasing your general physical networking efforts, some ways to do this are:

    Place your LinkedIn URL on your email signature, letterhead, business cards, websites, and any other identifier you use in your business. Anywhere your name is, your LinkedIn URL should follow.

    If you view this section daily (this section changes every day; so you can't go back and retrieve the information at a later date), you can probably figure out who is "checking you out" by asking some of the following questions:

    • Who have I met, either live or on the phone, in the last few days?
    • Who have I mailed or emailed recently?
    • Who did I ask one of my connections to refer me to?
    • Who did I interview?
    • Who have I been targeting with multiple "touch points" for the last week or so?
    . This can be very powerful information if you can put the puzzle together. Take a chance and find a reason to contact those individuals for one reason or another without them really knowing how you decided to contact them at this time. Remember -- they were checking you out. There must be something there, don't you think?

    This week had a real eye opening theme for me.   It amazed me, meeting after meeting, how few of my clients truly knew their demographic and how to reach them.

    We work with our clients to market from a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional approach,  understanding that different audiences need to be communicated with differently in different ways.     The brand is the brand, but how the value of that brand is communicated depends not only on the medium but the intended audience.

    A few weeks back, Mashable published an article “Women Win Facebook, Twitter, Zynga; Men Get LinkedIn, Reddit ” with an attached infographic.   I believe it is well worth a look.

    Yes, it does only delve into one arena in the marketing sphere, but I believe it tells a very vivid story about how men and women look at the world.   Women, through looking at these stats, tend to be far more visual and willing to engage with those who market to them in the manner in which they want to be spoken to.

    This is a great thing to think about in terms of overall marketing as women still control the majority of how disposable income is allocated.

    Communicating the brand message is becoming ever more complex.   Technology dictates that we develop messaging that not only penetrates different mediums, but now we have to look at the mediums itself and see who is viewing your message and if you are speaking to them in a style that they can relate to.

    Use your analytics to your advantage.     Find out who your clients are, where they feel comfortable being marketed to and let us help you develop strategies to Get YOU Noticed!