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In Latin, it's called consensus ad idem, meaning "meeting of the minds." In layman's terms, or in the case of Mitch Berliner and Peter Buttenwieser, it's simply two guys who turned a chance occurrence into an uber-successful business partnership that has exceeded their wildest dreams.

 

Although Their Paths Crossed By Chance,

Synergy Has Propelled Biz Partners To Top


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Berliner and Buttenwieser are managing partners of CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT, which for the past five years has earned the status of being the No. 1 residential business within the 400-plus offices of CertaPro Painters, America's largest and most-referred painting company. 

What makes their story interesting is that neither ever thought he would be in the painting business, but by happenstance - and most importantly, a lot of hard work - they have turned what Buttenwieser calls a "very synergistic partnership" into a thriving business that has been one of the most successful in the CertaPro Painters' franchise system.

"We refer to ourselves as managing partners vs. owners," said Buttenwieser of the pair, who each hold a 50 percent stake in the franchise. "While we each have our own areas of expertise and specialty, we are always seeking the other's advice and consulting in each other's domains."

In 2004, Berliner was an IT sales executive when he hired CertaPro Painters to stain the cedar siding and paint the trim on his home in Somers. When Berliner's general contractor said the finished work was some of the best he had ever seen, Berliner was so impressed... he bought the company.

Flash forward to 2005 and Buttenwieser was an advertising and marketing executive who hired CertaPro Painters to restore and paint his circa 1908 house in Bedford. Buttenwieser was so impressed... he called Berliner and ended up buying into the company.

"When I got a message to contact Peter, my assumption was that he was calling to complain about something. It turned out he wanted to discuss how we were marketing the company and if I would be open to selling him equity in the business," Berliner said. "I was initially hesitant to take on a partner, but in hindsight, I made a pretty good decision."

Buttenwieser had done his due diligence on CertaPro Painters and the painting industry as a whole. Three things caught his attention: 1) it was a relatively low overhead business; 2) the competition was mostly mom-and-pop businesses with no definitive branding; 3) as people increasingly turned to the internet to make home-improvement decisions, a national brand such as CertaPro Painters was well-positioned to capture internet market share.

Despite their bullishness on the industry, in the early going neither Berliner nor Buttenwieser quit their day jobs: Berliner with Hewlett Packard and Buttenwieser with his marketing firm, I Before E Marketing. "We started out thinking it would be a fun side business and we might make some great vacation money every year. But things kept getting bigger and bigger," Buttenwieser said.

That is an understatement.

Today, CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT has a management staff of 14 and more than 150 painters and tradespeople on its team. Two of those team members - Shawn Gallagher and Alex Ramos - who were the account manager and job site supervisor, respectively, when Berliner and Buttenwieser had their homes painted, are still with the company, Gallagher as Senior Residential Accounts Manager and Ramos as Senior Job Site Supervisor. In 2014, the entire team was honored with the Certa Cup, an award given to the top franchise throughout the CertaPro Painters' network.

"We are very proud of what we have built and for how many families we are putting food on the table," Buttenwieser said.

The majority of CertaPro Painters' franchises are single owner/operator businesses. While there are some husband/wife partnerships and a few where two businesses have merged operations, very few have grown organically as Berliner and Buttenwieser have done with their franchise.

Berliner is general manager, overseeing all sales and operations, while Buttenwieser manages all marketing and customer relationship management.

"It is a rare day when we do not speak at least two or three times," Berliner said. "One of our keys is that we can be really honest with each other because we trust each other, which really says something, given that 10 years ago we had never met. It's quite a remarkable relationship. During this whole time, I can't remember a single situation where we have had a major disagreement."

That being said, each business partner knows how to deliver a subtle message to the other when the circumstance warrants. You know... just the slightest little jab - with a nod and a wink - to get a point across.

"One thing we use with each other is the 'two strokes and a poke' method when we provide feedback to each other," Buttenwieser said. "The other day Mitch gave me some feedback on a piece of promotional literature that went something like this... 'Great job, looks really sharp; though I believe we discussed adding in a minimum job size, but I don't see that in the fine print.'"

More than a decade has gone by since their paths crossed, but the relevance of that meeting has never been lost on the pair. It's something Berliner certainly didn't forget to mention when talking recently about his two keys for running a top-tier CertaPro Painters franchise.

"Follow the system; that is why you bought into a franchise business. You can tinker here and there for your local market conditions, but don't try to outsmart everyone else who is doing this all over the country," Berliner said. "There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of and landmines to avoid. And the best way to succeed is to get yourself a partner."


CertaPro Painters' best-in-class operational systems and procedures make it the most professional business model in the industry and its satisfied residential and commercial customers are the direct benefactors within the estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

         Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry. The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. 


For more information, visit CertaPro Painters 


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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


 

When you are a big well respected company like Jacksonville, Florida based Paul Davis, lots of people come to you for your knowledge and expertise. The area of restoration and repairs, particulary after this awful spate of hurricanes, floods and now fires, is a busy one.

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Unfortunately, most of the calls that the EMS division of Paul Davis (Emergency Services--damage evaluation) receive brings them to an unhappy scene.

A house severely damaged or even lost, a teary-eyed family searching through what belongings may be saved. One can't help but sympathize with the emotions and difficulties these victims experience.

A full Paul Davis Restoration team then moves in to clean up and repair the scenes after evaluation. Not a happy time but often it does end up with a happy ending.

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Even without Mother Nature's huge events, common hazards of life can cause chaos. One is extreme cold; but surprisingly, there are easy and inexpensive things to do so you never have to deal with this particular problem.

On December 7th Paul Davis' "flood house", a demo home at their state-of-the-art training facility in Jacksonville, was used by consumer journalist Jeff Rossen to demonstrate all the ways in which one can avoid bursting pipes and other cold weather hazards.

We have shared here: https://www.today.com/home/how-avoid-bursting-pipes-costly-repairs-winter-t119612

Full segment: http://on.today.com/2zX7kTK


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What's in a Ranking? Plenty.

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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/

I personally could not be more excited. And I don't want to brag but I nudged Ms. Moss or ([email protected]) to do this the day some very misguided International Franchise Association board members allowed an even more misguided then president Stephen Caldeira to relieve Debbie Moss from her amazingly successful run as Convention Director.

After 18 years of being widely credited with the turnaround of the association's educational programs, convention and ultimately, their bottom-line financial performance, that was her goodbye. Well, now meet Debbie Moss, The Meeting Boss.

I always say everything happens for a reason and this situation is no different. It's what one makes of his/her bumps and lumps in life that determines one's future.

Now this world-class event expert has launched a meeting consulting business for franchise systems. MeetingBoss.com services will include in-office training for meeting staff, development of an exhibit hall or creating a sponsorship program, maximizing sales efforts or program development for any event.

The signature service will be the MBoss Assessment, which takes a comprehensive look into 13 key components of any meeting to evaluate how to improve KPI's without sacrificing the registrants' experience.

"Events can be executed so much more efficiently and profitably with an experienced professional. Even a small board meeting can realize $10-$15k in savings with savvy contract negotiations and experienced on-site management of food & beverage costs," Moss said.

As most of the readers here know, Debbie has more than 30 years of expansive experience from upscale board meetings for 50 to city-wide conventions of 7,000+. At IFA from 1995-2014, in her last 10 years, overall revenue at the Annual Convention soared from $1.7MM to $4.4MM and bottom-line surplus grew from $900,000 to $2.4MM.

I have some personal knowledge having served a year on the Board of the IFA and as Supplier Forum Chairman that Debbie brought the association from the red to the black.

Her efficiency in holding fantastic, organized and flawlessly orchestrated events accounts also for the savings realized during each convention; and further the rise in registrations because people want to attend a good, educational and well planned function.

Debbie Moss' career didn't start with the IFA. She was Convention Director and then Vice President of Industry Affairs for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association for nearly 10 years before she was recruited by Don DeBolt, the then president at the International Franchise Association, to build the non-dues revenue at IFA in 1995.

Said Don Debolt, ""Debbie Moss is a meeting and event planning professional creating exceptional results, which I have personally experienced over the past 20 plus years. As Past Chairman of the International Franchise Association I saw first-hand how Debbie's meeting and events were produced on budget, on time and achieved impact for both large & small programs. Her approach combined vision, creativity, writing and staging general sessions to lead our association's revenue growth. High attention to detail, personal commitment, accountability, and communications are the hallmarks of her organization."

Another fan is the terrific Mike Isakson who we all remember as building giant ServiceMaster and who now is Managing Partner at Insight To Execution, "My opportunity to work with Debbie began a few years before I became IFA Chairman. In those volunteer roles, which included Convention Committee Chair, I had a front row seat to observe her ability to multi-task at an extremely high level -- always striving for flawless execution, better than better performance and rock solid efficiency & effectiveness. She demonstrated an affinity to look around corners for both challenges and opportunities and often took the lead to address those issues. Her commitment to build conferences revenue, while maintaining high standards, allowed the organization's finances to grow exponentially over her tenure."

Since I have known her I have always said that any meeting I ever attended would have been so much better had Debbie Moss in charge. Now she can be!!

Visit meetingboss.com for a complete look at the services offered by this long-time industry expert.

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.

For 22 years Matthew Byrne worked in the building automation controls industry, where he last managed a $20 million branch contracting business. There he worked with energy efficiency products, gaining a keen insight into an industry that has a demonstrated impact on energy use and utilities. That, he said, is what drew him to LED Source. According to LEDinside retrofitting and other LED lighting projects will be a $25 billion industry by the end of this year.

"When I learned about the energy-efficiency capabilities of LED lighting, the excellent quality of the light produced and the longevity of the products, I became truly enthused," said Byrne. "Because LED lighting is an emerging technical industry, it reminds me of the early days of the direct digital controls revolution that occurred back when I first started. It was very exciting; with LED Source, I found I could recapture that magic."

The magic that Byrne seeks was further inspired by work with current partner Nate Byelick, Byrne's brother-in-law. Together the two worked with an LED startup company where they installed LED fixtures. Inspired by this experience, they decided to reach out and find an LED business they could own and and control.

"After 22 years in my previous industry I realized it was time for a change," said Byrne. "I became determined to never again let my financial stability be determined by someone else and I wanted to be involved in an industry that was rapidly growing before my eyes. I also felt that because of this new technology we could actually have a real affect on the environment while enjoying making a living. At a certain point in your career, you say to yourself, "'what can I do to give back' "? For Byrne and Byelick, the answer was LED Source.

Founded in 2005 by Marcel Fairbairn and Gavin Cooper, 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.

With decades of experience in building automation, Byrne is keenly aware of the difference smart technology can have on a company's bottom line. "Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," said Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too."

Now operating LED Source of Raleigh Matt Byrne says every day is Earth Day. That's because as the area franchisee of LED Source Byrne provides the kind of state-of-the-art lighting solutions that are becoming the standard for environmentally conscious businesses to the Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham areas.

Currently, Byrne and LED Source of Raleigh are working with GRACE Christian School in the Raleigh area transitioning all of their standard lighting into LED lighting. "We are outfitting three main components of the school's campus, the elementary school, high school and sports field. The high school campus used to be an auto dealership so excessive lighting throughout the parking lots had to be changed. We started the initial reach out via a cold call. The rebates the school received from switching from standard lighting to LED more than covered the switch over for the parking lot so they decided to refit the entire campus as a whole which is a big and exciting project for both the school and us," said Byrne.

"Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," shared Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too. It's also great to go to work and know you are not only decreasing your carbon footprint but are helping others do the same."

For more information about retrofitting your business or franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com

When you buy a franchise you are not necessarily thinking of an exit strategy or how you're going to sell the business in 10 or 15 years. But in the case of Sonja and Rich Heaton, it was exactly what was on their minds. And they can share some lessons about planning for just such an event.

After years of owning a Signarama in Orangeburg, SC, Rich and Sonja Heaton started actively positioning their business to sell. It took most of the next decade for the couple to build the business to where they wanted it to be to achieve a maximum return of investment and complete the sale.

"We went into the business knowing one day we would sell and started preparing and understanding the process about five years into the business," said Sonja Heaton. Even though they had it all planned, when they finally got to the selling point, the process still took nine months.

Before buying their Signarama franchise, the Heatons had spent five years running another franchise. They also worked for a jewelry firm for five years and Rich was a petroleum executive for seven years at a company that he played a pivotal role in selling. Sonja Heaton says these experiences taught them the importance of customer service. A lesson they took with them to their Signarama store.

"Sign companies in general have a reputation of slow turn around and customer service," said Rich. "We made sure we provided our services in a timely manner. We practiced the cliché, 'the customer is always right'" and put it into practice by refusing to say "no" to any project. We would take rush projects that many other companies would turn away. We provided solutions to problems no one else had the solution to."

That can-do attitude helped their business succeed by creating a loyal customer base.

"We specialized in small- to mid-sized chain accounts," said the Heatons. "These smaller businesses needed the service that the larger companies like McDonald's were getting, but they weren't able to get them because other signage companies didn't think they were big enough."

Now that they've finished the process of selling their successful franchise, the Heatons are looking forward to moving to Charleston, SC, but they're far from thinking about retirement.

"We have started a consulting business to help people build their businesses as we did," said the Heatons. "We are now helping people with their exit strategies and preparing them to get to a point where their business is ready to sell."

To reach out to the Heatons with help selling your franchise go to: [email protected]

ABOUT SIGNARAMA

Signarama, the world's largest sign franchise, offers branding and messaging solutions in addition to comprehensive sign and graphic services to consumers and commercial customers - from business signs, vehicle wraps, and digital signs, to advertising and marketing services. Signarama is part of a successful system of business-to-business franchise brands and development services under the United Franchise Group. As part of the $49-billion-plus worldwide sign market, Signarama has been at the forefront of the sign industry for more than two decades. Approaching 900 locations worldwide, the company expects to have more than 1,200 locations worldwide by the end of 2017. For more information visit http://www.signarama.com/

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]

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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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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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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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.

3 Quick Twitter Strategies

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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.

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.

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!

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.

I have been called the Franchise PR Guru for many years mostly because I am the oldest person in franchise PR. But thanks for the flattery friends.  So if I feel that the title justifies judging the best PR/Marketing campaigns of 2013, oh well you'll just have to grin and bear it. 

I am positive I am not alone in my picks though.  What makes a great campaign varies so much. However, in the end, it's all about one thing and one thing only.  Do you remember the brand behind the campaign and do you like it a whole lot more now? 

This is totally subjective, I realize that.  But I am going to choose and place in order based upon my personal favorites. 

#1   GoPro Camera:  Try disliking this company when you see this video, Fireman Saves Kitten- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjB_oVeq8Lo which of course, has had 1,437,054 hits so far. You not only want to buy the camera for everyone on your Christmas list, you want to marry a fireman. By giving out their cameras to policeman, fireman, doctors and others, the company's Be a Hero social media campaign could not miss. 

#2   West Jet : is a Canadian low-cost carrier that provides scheduled and charter air service to 88 destinations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. With 9,600 employees and an internal PR team this small airline pulled off, in my opinion, an amazing PR campaign for a company of its size.

One of the biggest obstacles for PR people is getting the client to agree to spend a certain amount of dollars for great coverage that will bring them many more dollars.  It doesn't always succeed; there are risks, so it is a tough sell.

I love Undercover Boss, but I know many participants who did not recover the $250,000 they were required to spend.

However the West Jet PR team came up with the clever idea of choosing a cross country flight and having an employee asking boarding passengers "What do you want for Christmas?

By the time the passengers arrived 4 hours later at their destination, their wrapped gifts were being dropped down the baggage conveyor belt.

The looks on passengers' faces were priceless (that's the point-you can't BUY that reaction) and of course were captured by TV stations that had been alerted and were on the scene to film. These days it's tough to get media to show up with such downsized crews so you can film these types of events yourself professionally and send the film to stations. 

#3   Oreo Super Bowl Tweet: During the Super Bowl blackout in January, Oreo's crackerjack social media team tweeted an image of their cookie with a gray background and a few words--"You can still dunk in the dark." So clever was it that it went viral in hours. Oreo now averages 600 new followers on twitter daily. They have 231,505 followers - yesterday they gained 931 more. Oreo, owned by Nabisco, is the best selling cookie in the US.  They have sold 362 billion since 1912. (Source: Wikipedia) 

#4   Chipotle Scarecrow Video: The Company produced an online animated video that really was a short story about our society and the cold manufacturing process. Included was a frame of a chicken being injected and plumped up. This is a huge target for the millennials who mistrust ads and self promotion. Cleverest of all is that Chipotle is only mentioned once in the entire video.  

#5    Here's my big DON'TApplebee's Firing of Waitress. Worst PR (aside from Obamacare website rollout which has a lot of skewed media working against it) 

This was one of the most mishandled PR situations of 2013. A waitress at Applebee's in St. Louis posted a receipt after a pastor left a note on it saying "I give God 10% why would I give you 18%? This was an added gratuity which is the policy for parties of over six people.  The waitress was promptly fired for posting a copy of the receipt on her Facebook page, wherein many people took to posting nasty things on Applebee's corporate page. 

Applebee's strategy was to argue back with the posters, and then eventually delete nasty comments and block those posting them.  Not good!  

I hope these are some lessons learned for your 2014 PR plans. And this Franchise PR Guru wishes you a very prosperous and healthy new year.

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

Twitter is a powerful tool that makes it easy for lawyers to listen to what is happening in the legal industry and within your target markets; engage in profitable conversations with colleagues and ideal clients; and influence what people think about you and your law practice.

When used effectively, Twitter will not only increase traffic to your website or blog, it can also increase referrals and inquiries from ideal clients.   The following are 17 ways to start leveraging the power of Twitter in your law practice.   These tips are broken into three categories to make it easy for you to get started right now.  Start off trying two or three and build up to all 17.

Listen to Learn What’s Being Said & Done in the Legal Industry and Your Target Market.

1.       Monitor trends in the legal industry by following and interacting with legal industry leaders.   Use a tool like Kurrently at http://Kurrently.com to search for keywords related to your practice areas and target markets.

2.       Monitor breaking news by following leading journalists and news outlets.  Check out resources like Muckrack at http://muckrack.com to find journalists to follow.

3.       Track mentions of your clients, prospective clients, colleagues and lawyers in your competitive space on Twitter.   Using a tool like Twilert at http://twilert.com makes this easy to do.

4.       Measure the effectiveness of your blog and article titles by tracking click rates for links to your blog or website.   Using an online tracking tool like http://Bitly.com makes it easy to do this.

5.       Track and monitor tweets from legal industry events by following hashtags.  Hashtags are keywords that are preceded by the pound (“#”) sign.  To see this in action, go to http://search.twitter.com and search for “#dcbartwt” to follow tweets from social media training programs sponsored by the DC Bar Association.    

6.       Determine the reach and potential impact of your tweets by using a tool like TweetReach at http://tweetreach.com

 

Engage to Attract Your Ideal Client

 

7.       Expand your network by building relationships with legal industry leaders. You can find thousands of lawyers and professionals who serve the legal industry by visiting LexTweet at http://lextweet.com.

8.       Increase referrals by building relationships with lawyers in complimentary practice areas.  Start by forwarding “tweets” posted by lawyers you respect with your Twitter community. This is called “retweeting.”

9.       Monitor trends in your target industries by following, interacting and sharing relevant content with industry leaders and prospective clients.  Find great people to follow using tools like http://wefollow.com.

10.   Attract media attention by interacting with journalists providing commentary about current legal topics.   JournalistTweets at http://www.journalisttweets.com is great source for finding journalists to follow.

 

Influence to Convert Leads into Client

 

11.   Establish yourself as an industry leader by thoughtful legal commentary on current legal events.

12.   Demonstrate your expertise and ability to get results by sharing law firm highlights, favorable rulings and accomplishments.

13.   Drive traffic to your website and build credibility as an innovative lawyer and thought leader by sharing links to your blog posts, articles, podcasts or videos.  

14.   Share case alerts and relevant “breaking news” by using a tool that can translate your voice into Tweets.  TwitterFhone makes it easy to do this. You can check it out at http://twitterfhone.com.

15.   Send reminders about important deadlines for your target market and ideal clients.  Encourage your current clients and online community to subscribe and receive your “important updates” Tweets on their mobile phones.  Consider creating a separate Twitter account that is just for sharing these “special updates.”

16.   Share links to your law firm newsletter to drive website traffic, build credibility and establish your expertise as a subject matter expert.

17.   Share information about seminars, networking opportunities and CLE programs with your online community.  Use a tool like Plancast at http://plancast.com to automatically share notices about upcoming events on multiple social networks.

 

Now that you have 17 ways to increase your influence, impact and income using social media, pick a few and get into UpwardAction® today.  

 

This has been a guest post from Tasha Cooper Coleman, Esq., a law firm marketing consultant with expertise in social media and personal marketing for lawyers.   You can find her online at http://upwardaction.com  and on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/UpwardAction.
 

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