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How You Can Partner With Your Best Friend in the Top Painting Franchise, CertaPro Painters...

Chris Mehring and Steve Leeland began their journey with CertaPro Painters® in 2002 and 2003, respectively. They didn't know each other at the time, though their territories all but overlapped.

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So, it made perfect business sense when the two joined forces in 2012, forming one of the biggest and most successful CertaPro Painters franchises to date.

CertaPro Painters is North America's largest and most-referred painting company with more than 350 locations and growing. "CertaPro Painters of Waukesha County proudly services every zip code in Waukesha County except one, four zip codes in Washington County and one zip code in Walworth County. We also service areas of SE Wisconsin for some commercial projects," said Leeland.

For Mehring, who started his career as a painter, the transition to CertaPro Painters was a natural one. "I'm not sure I ever really 'left'. I simply transitioned from painter to franchise manager (for a different company) to franchisee. I was 25 years old at the time, and had already delivered great results for my employer, so CertaPro Painters was the next logical step for me."

Steve Leeland says he knew since the 8th grade that he wanted to own his own business. He began his career at Auto Trader Magazines of Wisconsin where he sold advertising and managed circulation. "I knew the corporate world wasn't for me," explained Leeland.

"The experience of servicing customers and wearing many hats with Auto Traders proved to be an asset in my early years as a CertaPro Painters owner, though, so I do value those years that I spent 'in the trenches'".

Leeland says the driving force that led him to CertaPro Painters was the company's culture and clear business plan.

"The culture of friendly support, success and business-execution-clarity are what drove me to sign the franchise agreement. The company was also up and coming and fit well into my budget," he recalled.

Commercial and residential painting is an estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro Painters has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

Best-in-class operational systems and procedures make CertaPro Painters the most professional business model in the industry, and its satisfied customers are the direct benefactors.

The pair agree that there is no 'secret to their success', but the right attitude and perseverance certainly play a key role - a fact they both wholeheartedly agree on.

"I get more enjoyment from the impact we have on people and their community than anything else," says Mehring. "Everyone wants a good value, but that means something different to each person, so it is important that we listen.

We create painting opportunities that fit each individual customer's needs." Leeland adds, "Our customers are not only looking for quality work at a great price; they are looking for a partner in their contractor. We work together to solve problems and find the best products to suit their needs."

When asked about advice they might offer to prospective business owners, their philosophies were, again, right in line. "My path hasn't been easy," said Mehring, "but it has been when I needed to get me to where I am today. I wake up every day excited and ready to face new challenges.

If that scenario appeals to you, then I recommend business ownership."

"Starting a business requires a lot of hard work," agrees Leeland. "You have to remain committed to succeed, but the long-term rewards - such as profits, flexibility and a sense of accomplishment - make it all well worth it."

CertaPro Painters® of Waukesha County, WI is pleased to provide the best house painting to your specific neighborhood in and around Waukesha. For more information, visit CertaPro Painters® of Waukesha County, WI or call 262-676-2138.

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About the Franchisor: CertaPro Painters

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 (both residential and commercial).

The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. For more information, visit www.certapro.com

Rhonda Sanderson -SandersonPR -847-612-9829

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Climate Change ==> Green Restaurants are In.

With your guests looking for any different reason to keep coming back, do you think getting a Green Certificate helps?

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Arooga's certainly thinks so. What about you?

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Buying or selling a house is an exercise that can be fraught with anxiety. Sometimes you need a calming influence, or more importantly, a voice of reason when it comes to making what is one of life's big decisions.

In that situation, you want to turn to someone like Jack Zaczek, 48, who is a newer franchisee of Tampa, Florida based Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®, the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for more than 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home.

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Zaczek is a just-retired veteran who spent more than 20 years in the Navy. And we all know that attention to detail and a sense of calm in times of stress are hallmarks of any veteran and Zaczek certainly has the credentials: He retired as a Navy Chief and was an Airframe and Flight Control Technician, certifying H60 Sea Hawk Helicopters safe for flight during eight - yes, eight - deployments to the Persian Gulf in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom campaigns.

"The attention to detail the Navy taught me inspecting aircraft will directly contribute to the high level of attention I give each home inspection I perform,"

said Zaczek, an Orange Park, Florida resident. Zaczek's Pillar To Post serves homebuyers and sellers throughout Duval, Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and Nassau counties in Florida.

While Zaczek has the requisite mindset to be a successful home inspector, he also has the knowledge. Before joining the Navy in 1997, he worked in construction building custom homes in Oregon.

"Pillar To Post was a perfect fit for me. I love the profession and take great pride in my own home," Zaczek said. "Now being a home inspector gives me the opportunity to help and be involved with my community."

Pillar to Post Home Inspectors is a popular franchise brand among veterans such as Zaczek. The franchisor is a member of VetFran, a program of the International Franchise Association that helps vets purchase franchises and it has achieved 5-star status in that program, the top ranking possible.

In 2018, one-third of new Pillar To Post franchisees were military vets. "Pillar To Post has been ranked as the No. 1 home inspection franchise for the last seven years and I wanted to be part of that winning team," Zaczek said.

As the largest home inspection company in North America, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has experienced impressive growth; not only among veterans, but with people in, or leaving the mortgage, contracting and construction industries. Realtors, both existing and former, are attracted to the concept which extends and adds to their prior work experience.

Recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine's Franchise 500 for 18 consecutive years, the home inspection giant is also proud of its continued inclusion in the following Entrepreneur Magazine rankings.

  • Top Home-Based Franchises
  • Best of the Best
  • Top Low-Cost Franchises
  • Top Franchises for Veterans
  • Fastest Growing Franchises

In addition, Military Times Magazine named them one of the Top Franchises for Veterans.

As the housing market continues to grow, homeowners clearly recognize the importance of hiring a certified home inspector. A recent survey released by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) found that 88 percent of all U.S. homeowners believe home inspections are a necessity, not a luxury.

Additionally, the home inspection industry is largely comprised of aging owner-operators. As they leave the industry, homeowners will desire a strong reliable brand that utilizes the latest technology and education, resulting in significant growth opportunities for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post's service. Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report that is printed and presented on site. All information is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions.

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About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with home offices in Toronto and Tampa. Nearly 600 franchises are located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit our Franchise Recruiting Website.

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How do you grow a business from startup in 2016 to $4MM in 2017, $9.8MM in 2018 and on target for $12MM in 2019? To understand the how, you must first learn about the who.

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From Ernst & Young to Enron to UBS to JP Morgan - and maybe a few stops in between - life for Bob Hillier and his family was never boring.

After spending seven years with Ernst & Young, one of Hillier's clients, a little company called Enron, "stole me away", said Hillier.

With that, he moved the family to Texas. It was 1998. "I was 27 years old when Enron went bust," Hillier recalled. There was no rest for the weary, though. He quickly rebounded and accepted a tech position at UBS. Almost zig-zagging the country, the Hillier's now found themselves in Connecticut.

The New England charm was lovely. The weather? Not so much. But mostly it just didn't feel like home to the long time Texans. Two years in, Hillier was looking for his next opportunity. And challenge. It didn't take long for JP Morgan's tech group to scoop him up. The Hillier's headed back to the Lone Star State, landing in Houston this time.

Though each new position and each new town took a toll on his family, Hillier never regretted the learning experience. He always knew that he was working towards something bigger and better. He was perfecting his craft. He was gaining invaluable experience while building a professional reputation for himself. He was maintaining financial security for his family. Hillier eventually made another career move; this time to Bank of America - no relocation required.

In Houston, the Hillier's had finally found a place they could call home.

In 2008 Bank of America announced plans to buy Merrill Lynch in a reported $50 BILLION deal. "The Bank of America - Merrill Lynch merger proved to be a huge 'corporate America' learning experience for me," reflects Hillier. "It changed everything."

Like so many, Hillier grew tired of the corporate life and the travel. He began to research opportunities that would afford him more time with his family. "I wanted to try something completely different, so I looked into several different franchise systems. I learned that restoration was a lucrative (and growing) market, so I visited ALL the restoration franchise models.

I read a lot about Paul Davis the man, and I felt like he was a bit like me - a risk taker, an innovator, and he was able to see the positives in bad situations and learn from them. This is where my researched ended and my choice was made."

Since 1966, Paul Davis Restoration has been providing restoration and cleanup services to the residential and commercial market. They are the experts when it comes to cleaning up after disasters such as water, fire or mold. With more than 300 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing.

One of the many innovative aspects of Paul Davis Restoration is how they collaborate with insurance and other industries to improve efficiency in restoration of property damage.

About nine months after Bob Hillier invested in his own Paul Davis Restoration franchise, he struck what he thought would be a sweet deal with FEMA. It seemed like the perfect fit for his business, and it was FEMA after all. What could go wrong? Sadly, devastation struck the Gulf Coast when hurricane Harvey paid an unwelcome visit.

The too-good-to-be-true deal to build 2000 houses with FEMA fell through. True to Hillier's nature, and exemplifying what he himself admired in Mr. Paul Davis, he didn't wallow. Hillier found the positives in what, for many others, would be considered a disastrous experience. "I learned from this and lost some dollars," he said; "but the silver lining was that we found lot of talented people through that experience who work for us today."

And that is the attitude that gets you from a 5,000 square foot facility in 2016 to a 37,000 square foot facility in 2019! Hillier's business has grown from 3 vehicles to 17 to 28. "We have grown so much in just three years! We have outgrown our warehouse space twice. We continually add new staff and new vehicles. This business went from nothing to $9.8 million in TWO years!" beams Hillier.

"I knew all my life that I was working toward something bigger. I knew the travel and the long hours would amount to something. Today I have a thriving business that I can be proud of, four great kids and an equally wonderful wife. They are all also proud of my accomplishments and the fact that all four of them will be, at some point, in college at the same time, keeps me financially motivated, Hillier said with a laugh. "And we get to do it all in a city that we love."

Hillier cites consolidation of the three most important parts of his business as one of the main keys to the success of his team.

"80% of our business is organic growth; meaning maintenance of commercial and residential properties," Hillier concludes. "Things like bursting appliances, heaters, we maintain businesses and sustain homes with mundane repairs. But that's necessary upkeep. Then we have our storm based/disaster work. The secret is the bigger we are in organic business, the upkeep etc, the more storm-based jobs with risk we can take and manage. That's the part where we can really help people and it's rewarding.

"If I were to offer any advice to someone starting out or looking to purchase a franchise, I would tell them not to be afraid to take a risk - don't be reckless, but get out there and try new things, and always look for something good, even in the bad times."

For more information visit Paul Davis Restoration - North Houston, or call 281-886-7755.

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About Paul Davis Restoration

Since 1966 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 United States and Canada. The professionals at Paul Davis are certified in emergency restoration, reconstruction and remodeling. For more information, visit the company website at www.pauldavis.com.

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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"Our offices are a bit somber this morning," said Rich Wilson, President and CEO of Jacksonville-based Paul Davis Restoration Inc. last Friday, June 14th.

"We learned today of the passing of our founder Paul Woodall Davis at the age of 92. I am so pleased that I got to visit him recently and tell him how much his guidance and great spirit have helped me personally and helped the entire company to thrive."

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Paul Woodall Davis founded Paul W. Davis Contracting in 1966. During the time that entity was growing, Insurance Restoration Contracting was a "niche market."

Paul Davis had very original insights about what the future would be for this industry. Property insurance adjusters were looking for ways to settle claims, sorted out these folks who soon realized the insurance adjusters were going to be their sole source of business. Paul Davis saw this fragmented niche for what it is today; a multi-billion-dollar stand-alone industry.

The company began franchising in 1969. That's when Davis began his teaching role and is credited with doing an excellent job of it by the Paul Davis staff and early franchisees. He authored the original Operations Manual and personally taught the Owners' School. As the franchise network grew and he had less personal time to spend teaching, instructors were brought in.

Employees were also empowered to participate in the Owners' School. Davis took a personal interest in all the employees at what was then called Paul W. Davis Systems. His management style was the same as his project development; he empowered the employee and helped them make corrections along the way. He had an open-door policy; he made himself available to all employees.

In 2016 Paul Davis wrote and published his autobiography called "If I Could, So Can You!" an effort that delighted the entire PDRI system. Among the values shared in the book by Davis: "For any organization to enjoy the greatest potential for success, its culture must always reflect its basic values."

Stephanie Rosenstone, Senior Executive Assistant to Rich Wilson, spoke at Davis' funeral Saturday.

"Paul felt strongly that Rich Wilson embodies the values and integrity which the company was founded on. Paul often commented that Rich is the perfect CEO to lead our network to the growth that he could not have dreamed. He was passionate about his support for the direction/leadership occurring at what is now Paul Davis Restoration Inc."

Paul also credited his devoted wife Brenda for coining an oft used phrase among us at Corporate; "Remember who you are and who you Represent".


Obituary from Florida Times Union Saturday June 15th, 2019

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesunion/obituary.aspx?n=paul-woodall-davis&pid=193148091


About Paul Davis Restoration Inc.

Paul Davis has been providing restoration and cleanup services to the residential and commercial market since its founding in 1966. The Company was acquired in 1997 by The Franchise Company, known today as FirstService Brands, a network of home service franchisors.

Paul Davis has over 300 North American offices, is a leader in the recovery, reconstruction and restoration industries. In 2018, the company had over $850 million in revenue from work on over 125,000 commercial and residential projects.

Paul Davis franchise owners employ over 126,000 restoration professionals. www.pauldavis.com

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This Medal Winner Served his Country and Now Recently Opened a Pillar To Post Home Inspectors Franchise 

     Spencer Velez knows how to use his expertise and skills. 

    He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 14 years in a direct combat service support role. The 35-year-old also served In Afghanistan, in Operation Enduring Freedom and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for superior performance of duties. 


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     As if those achievements weren't enough, Velez then completed graduate school at the University of Southern California (USC) earning a Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree in a program designed to leverage the management and leadership experience gained during military service. 

      After graduating, he applied these skills to become a Corporate Compliance Manager with The Walt Disney Company. In that role, he ensured wherever Disney products were manufactured, the workers were provided a safe and inclusive environment. 

     In May he opened a Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® franchise to continue using his acquired business skills. Velez serves home buyers and sellers throughout South Pasadena, San Marino, Alhambra, Altadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Burbank, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Rosemead, Monterey Park, Los Angeles and surrounding areas. 


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     Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home. 

     Consistently ranked as the top-rated home inspection company on Entrepreneur Magazine's annual Franchise500®, they are enjoying their 19th year in a row on that list. A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors' service. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report that is printed and presented on site. 

     All information is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions. The brand is a favorite among veterans such as Velez. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is a member of VetFran, a program of the International Franchise Association that helps vets purchase franchises and it has achieved 5-star status in that program, the top ranking possible. 

     In 2018, one-third of new Pillar To Post Home Inspectors franchisees were military vets.  

     "Pillar to Post provides a service that brings people happiness and positively impacts the community by educating the client about the home - purchasing a home is and big and exciting step and we are a part of that journey," said Velez. "I have great plans to grow the business to its maximum potential with multiple professional home inspectors and valuable services. I will be a leader built on a reputation of respect and hard work which I learned through my military service." 

     For more information visit: call 626-205-0739 or, go to velezteam.pillartopost

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          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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Franchise StarsRonnie HobbsPillar To Post Home Inspectors®.

Ronnie Hobbs provides professional home inspection services for: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Paulding, Rockdale, and Henry counties in the state of Georgia.


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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Talked with a startup franchisor recently about his franchise sales.

A really nice guy Bob, who has no franchises sold so far.

And he is going into his 3rd year of trying.

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At the outset, Bob spent a boatload of money with a famous and notorious Franchise Development Company to get his FDD & franchise agreement done.

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Sadly, Bob had to hire another law firm to redo the FDD & franchise agreement.

Which entailed starting from scratch.

Since it would have cost more to try to fix the first set of documents.

Bob invested in all the things that certain experts had told him to get in order to build a successful franchising company.

Here's some of what Bob spent big bucks on -

  • State of the Art Franchise Recruitment Website
  • Website Content & SEO
  • Franchise Operations Intranet/Extranet
  • Franchise Management System (FMS) with CRM
  • Outsourced Franchise Sales Team

His website gets no traffic.

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Bob isn't reaching qualified franchise candidates with the requisite talent and capital.

Bob's story is not surprising or uncommon.

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And these are statistics on the 4033 franchises available in North America that show this.

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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.

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.

Plenty of expert franchise people will disagree with this article.

Between you and me - they will be spectacularly wrong too.

If you take exception you can dispute my thoughts on this in the comment section and we'll talk about it, but only if you want to.

Here are the Top 3 Lies -

Lie #1 - 57% of the franchise buyer's decision process is complete before their first engagement with a franchise salesperson.

You'll find a variety of versions of this factoid on franchising websites. And hear them regaled at franchise conference & expo roundtables & panel discussions.

Problem is this 57% statistic (stated as high as 75%) is unsubstantiated. It is a convenient meme dubious suppliers and vendors promote to franchisors.

Lie #2 - Franchise buyers are smarter, more sophisticated and technologically advanced than ever before.

Purportedly franchise buyers want all the information in advance from franchisors.

So if your franchise recruitment website and automated franchise discovery process doesn't answer every imaginable franchise question & potential objection you'll miss out on those franchise buyers.

Lie #3 - The way people buy franchises has changed dramatically.

And Franchise Buyers are building detailed composite profiles of franchises from online search & social media and are franchise savvy.

There's just no evidence to support that this is true.

Here's what I know -

  • We have great technologies with more ways to send and receive information today. And the internet has an inexhaustible and overwhelming amount of info on franchises.
  • If franchise buyers were really doing better pre-purchase research and due diligence they would be pursuing your FDD - Franchise Disclosure Document for the most accurate stuff at the outset.
  • If we believe the meme that franchise buyers are 57% to 75% through their franchise discovery process before they talk with you then why haven't franchise sales cycles become significantly shorter? Wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a 57% to 70% sales cycle timeline improvement?
  • What hasn't changed is the series of mental operations that franchise buyers must go through before they buy your franchise.

Here's what you can do -

Follow this 118 year old selling dictum originated by Elias St. Elmo Lewis of NCR fame and design your sales processes to -

"Attract attention, maintain interest & create desire." E.K. Strong, The Psychology of Selling & Advertising, 1925

P.S. If you want to market and sell your franchise on LinkedIn I can show you how Franchise-Info's paid social franchise marketing works.

It requires a 15 minute investment from you.

And I guarantee you won't look at LinkedIn franchise recruitment the same way again.

For more information, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe at [email protected]

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Guy Kawasaki is quoted as saying, "If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing."

It often seems many large, traditional companies have continued to spend heavily on traditional or outbound marketing while smaller, leaner companies have embraced inbound marketing or as it is sometimes called, content marketing.

Many smaller, cash strapped businesses are often hesitant to try inbound marketing because the "big boys" are not doing it.

Well, according to Brandon Gutman in Forbes online blog, MarketShare, that is all changing.

Check out 5 Big Brands Confirm That Content Marketing Is The Key To Your Consumer. Read the article for all the details and links, but I'll summarize it here. (I have blogged a bit about Inbound Marketing and you can learn more about our Inbound Marketing Services here.)

Gutman profiles five national and international brands and shows how they are embracing what he is calling content marketing to engage with their customers, increase brand awareness and provide value to their customers.

The first thing you may notice is that big companies still spend big money, even when they are doing inbound marketing. This does not mean that you need to spend big money and there are many things you can learn and do from these examples.

The other thing that you will notice is that most of these efforts are not directly selling or promoting their brand or product. They are finding content that is interesting or valuable to their customers and providing them access to that content. Here are some of my thoughts and possible alternatives for smaller companies.

1. Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile Live is a social newsroom with up to date links to music, humor, video, technology and a number of other topics of interest to their customers.

This would be a big effort for a small business but posting content from other sources so that your customers and prospects considered you as a resource and clearing house for valuable content can easily be done.

But be careful, I'm not advocating stealing content, but you can link to news and important information or embed videos or infographics with proper link-backs and citations. You will also notice that Virgin makes it very easy to share content on social media with preformatted messages and branding in the tweets, likes and pins.

2. American Express

For American Express Unstaged American Express is creating original video content of some pretty big name musical acts. The videos are of course branded and it exposes fans to the American Express brand. This type of effort will be out of range for even bigger companies but try to image how something similar could work for your company.

The music has nothing to do with American Express but a lot to do with their prospective customers. What kind of entertainment or information do your customers want and you can provide?

A much more modest version of this concept could be the coffee house with an open mic night. Simply recorded videos of some of the better performances could be posted to the coffee house's YouTube channel benefiting both the business and the performer.

3. Marriott

Of all the examples in the article I think Marriott's Renaissance Hotels' Navigators platform and RLife Live program add the most value for their customers. Positioning the Renaissance Hotels as a "lifestyle" brand these online tools help travelers find interesting attractions, food and music near the hotel destination.

For the life of me I cannot figure out why any business involved in travel, hospitality and beverage industries are not doing inbound or content marketing in a big way. There are so many opportunities and topics where they can help their customers. Travelers not only want to find a nice hotel room they want to know where to eat and where to have fun.

There is an interconnected web of benefits for all involved and I think Marriott does a good job.

4. L'Oréal

L'Oréal, like American Express and Virgin Mobile, is not providing content about their product or business, but partnered their Garnier Fructis line with Rolling Stone Magazine to create Women Who Rock, featuring content around new, emerging musicians that their customers would be interested in. Smaller businesses cannot partner with Rolling Stone but they may be able to partner with smaller media organizations or businesses that cater to their customers to the mutual benefit of both partners.

5. Vanguard

Vanguard, an investment management company, has taken the traditional TV commercial format, produced a series of spoofs on classic movie genres and launched their own YouTube Channel called "Vanguard at the Movies". Any business can launch a YouTube Channel and it is a great way to get your content found online. Even without big Hollywood budgets it is possible to make effective videos that will help your business get found.

Inbound Marketing Impressions and Critiques

My one critique of most of these examples is the idea that the only content anyone is interested in is entertainment. That is what the traditional Madison Avenue model of outbound marketing has always been: put on a successful TV show and sell ads around it. For most of these businesses the content they produced had nothing to do with their product.

They made something entertaining for their customers and promoted it so that it is connected to their brand. This can actually be a good lesson for those businesses that say they do not have content that anyone would be interested in. Associate yourself with content that your customers are interested in and promote that content. Still, people need help and information and that is exactly what happens at Take Care Garnier, L'Oréal's more hands on, how to do it content website.

One more thing from the Forbes article; Gutman interviewed Lisa LaCour, VP Marketing from Outbrain and I think her 5 tips bear repeating here:

  1. A content strategy should focus on existing customers as well as prospects. Content marketing is a great tool to create brand affinity but can also be powerful in building a new audience of potential customers.
  2. When it comes to content marketing, brands should think beyond direct response tactics and focus more on the top of the funnel customer engagement and awareness. Content marketing is a great tool for thought leadership, education and customer relations. Define the appropriate analytics so that the ROI can be measured effectively.
  3. An amplification strategy should be a key tactic in a content strategy. Once the content is created, search and social networks can be used to distribute, but you should also make sure to distribute it out to others who may not know it exists. Intent is not created in a search box.
  4. Invest in the appropriate resources to meet your objectives.
  5. Stay honest and true to the brand

What is your reaction to the examples in the Forbes article? Let us know in the comments section below. If you would like to learn more contact us for a free Inbound Marketing Assessment.

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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/

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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]

So, What do You Do?

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

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

Start by stating your message in one sentence.

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

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

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

Close with a call to action.

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

Ding, first floor.

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

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

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

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

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Does Flattery Still Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew is a well respected and valued franchise attorney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Inbound Marketing Doesn't Work

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

online marketing myths

And I'm not the only one.

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

#2 Only Good Writers Can Be Content Creators

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

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

#3 Lead Nurturing Is Just Email With A Fancy Name

Lead nurturing is email-plus a whole lot more.

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

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

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

#4 Leads Leave Fake Names On Conversion Forms

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

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

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

YOUR TURN

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










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

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

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

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

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

WordPress Has All You Need

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

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

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

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

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

HubSpot is a Well-Stocked Kitchen

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

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

Do Not Use HubSpot, If ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Bloggers Weigh in on HubSpot vs. WordPress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When to Dump Your Online Business Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are big risks to take in the digital age.

1) Pop-ups

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

2) Lengthy Forms

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

3) Heavy Ads

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

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

4) Off-target Landing Pages

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

LinkedIn ads are especially notorious for this!.

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

5) Sales Pitch Emails

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

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

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

6) Deceiving Headlines

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

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

7) Bad Design

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

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

This is just an area where you cannot skimp.

What have I missed?

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

You can find Stephanie on Google+

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Perry Marshall is a modern day marketing legend. Google his name and you will find over 80,000 references. He has helped over 100,000 advertisers avoid the Google stupidity tax.

He is the author of the " The Ultimate Guide To Google Adwords", the number one book on Google Pay-Per-Click Advertising.

So, you can imagine we were real excited to have him as a client and help him use video marketing to sell enrollments to his "Bobsled Run - 12 Week Intensive Adwords Workshop"!

Let's review Perry's multichannel marketing strategy.

  1. Perry sent out 3 to 4 emails per week driving visitors to his Online Content such as webinars, his sales page and the videos we produced.
  2. He held 2 Webinars which provided teaser content to promote the program.
  3. He extensively uses marketing automation to segment his list and deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
  4. We produced the 4 videos to sell this online event and educational program.
  5. Three of the videos we produced are what we call "Presell Videos "and video number four was the Sales Video.

The psychological persuasion tactic behind producing presell videos is called inoculation. You are inoculating your audience with desire for your products or services and building trust.

When you do deliver your final sales video, you have already overcome a number of objections, established trust and build-up credibility.

Here is a breakdown of the viewership and engagement with these long form sales videos.

How could this campaign have been improved? We could have added telemarketing to the mix after delivering the sales video. Inexpensive postcards could have been mailed out to promote the program and drive registration.

However, the number of engaged views who eventually attended the course shows the value in Sales Videos, Presell Videos , Triggered and Lead Nurturing Emails and Marketing Automation.

If Perry Marshall does then maybe you should consider it!

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Sam brings over 20 years experience in International Business, Sales, Marketing and Finance. He has appeared on Good Morning America and has been featured in several publications including New York Times, People Magazine, Ebony, Black Enterprise, and EuroMoney celebrating his business success at such a young age. Dan Clark one of authors of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for The Soul Series" wrote a chapter about him in his 2008 best-seller "Soul Food Volume 1″.

You may already know who your "audience" is, but do you have buyer personas? Buyer personas provide insight into a particular audience so that you can focus your marketing efforts.

By understanding the importance of buyer personas and how to create them you can focus your marketing effort and close the deals that are important to your business growth.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer (or customers) based on research and data from your existing customers. While your audience is similar, a buyer persona takes that often one-dimensional profile and brings it to life.

buyer persona

A buyer persona doesn't just consist of the type of person, but the journey your consumer will take to buy your product and use your product. It encompasses attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive customers to your business. These personas will give you insights into your business and provide quotes from customers so you can accurately align your business to what they desire.

Why does your business need a buyer persona?

Buyer personas provide insight into your customers and where your business should focus its efforts. The more focused your efforts the more valuable your visitors, leads and customers will be for your business.

You have the ability to personalize and target your marketing to get the right message to the correct audience, tailoring each message to each persona your business serves.

In other words, you may know your target buyers are realtors, but do you know what their specific needs are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to serve your customers best, you need to understand what they desire and, therefore, can grow your business.

The more research you gather from your customer base the stronger and more accurate your personas will be. Your business could have as few as one or as many as twenty (LocalVox has three).

How to determine a buyer persona

When creating a buyer persona you should consider customer demographics, behaviour, motivation and goals. Remember the more detail you include, the more accurate the persona. buyer persona

You can find this information through research, surveys and interviews with your target audience and current customers. Including a mix of existing and potential customers will provide you with what your current customers expect and came to you for -- and what prospective customers are looking for.

Some methods you can use to gather information:

  • Uncover patterns about how your customers find and consume your content.
  • Create form fields that capture important persona information on your website, such as business size and lead-specific information.
  • Discover what generalizations are already being made by your sales team about the different customers you serve.
  • Interview customers and prospects to discover what they like about your product or service.

Each of these methods will provide you with more information for your buyer personas.

Having detailed buyer personas will help you refine your marketing and sales strategy and bring you more qualified leads, which take fewer resources to close.

Does your business use buyer personas? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Why Create Buyer Personas? appeared first on LocalVox.

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Are you posting content to social media but not getting any response from your audience?

Here are 5 potential reasons why your content is not being shared...and what to do about it.

1. Lack of Visuals - Social media audiences like visual content. If your content is text-heavy, try posting some images, infographics and videos. Visual content is shared more frequently than anything else.

2. Too Promotional - If your content is consistently aimed at selling, then you are not offering your audience anything of real value. Likely your content is also not being seen (Facebook's new algorithms are specifically aimed at reducing promotional content seen in newsfeeds). Try posting content that is helpful, inspiring or entertaining instead.

3. Wrong Time - You may be posting content at times when your audience isn't online. Try posting at different times of day and measure what times generate the best response.

4. Wrong Message - It could be that the type of content you're sharing isn't really what your audience wants to hear (or it's simply not what they want to hear from you). Start switching things up. Create a range of content messaging that serves your audience in different ways, and see what they respond to best. Exploring competitors' pages is often helpful.

5. You're "Lecturing" - If all you're doing is posting content and you, yourself, are not listening to your audience, responding to their comments and engaging proactively with them, then you can't expect them to engage with you. Start engaging in the conversation.

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FREE. No Cost. Complimentary. No charge.

Have you noticed? We have gotten so used to getting things for free that it's nearly impossible to find any product, service, experience, or program that doesn't include something given away for nothing at some point in the selling cycle.

The trend to free is certainly not new. I remember "free" sticking it's claws into my business back 15 years ago when I was in the women's underwear business.

Originally, we offered a twice yearly sale at 20% off. Then people got numb to that so to maintain our numbers, we went to 25% off twice a year.

Then customers had to be enticed with Buy 2 Get 1 Free (or 33 1/3%) off. Now it's Buy 2 Get 2 Free.

Without FREE, women stopped buying. This trend to FREE killed the department store business and forced manufacturing offshore.

Now let's take a look at what's happening in the service and information sectors of business....

Why Free Stuff For Business Has Taken Over

Information may mean power, but we sure don't want to pay for that power.

One massively successful marketer wrote his book, and sold it on Amazon FOR FREE for an entire week. Why? To get it on the Amazon best "seller" list of course. Amazon counted free downloads as sales!

More and more you find books and e-books, audio courses, video courses, entire modules of programs, free sessions, free masterminds, free blogging services, free free free everything. I've seen courses and programs overblown with bonuses and freebies to entice the sale. They are so overblown with bonuses the customer has forgotten what the main value proposition is.

So who's buying anything with real money?

Great question.

It is taking more and more for people to part with their money for even high-value content and services.

Why?

Because we have trained them to expect almost everything for nothing. We who use FREE are responsible for this dysfunctional mindset.

I recently saw something that just about blew my mind:

I was reading a question in a very popular marketing forum.

One business owner posted the question: "Is clothing deductible on my taxes?"

Seriously?

Asking marketing entrepreneurs whether they think clothing is a valid tax deduction vs. asking (and paying) your highly qualified CPA for the best answer for you and your taxes?

And the business owners in the forum answered! As if they know or are qualified to know.... they don't know the question-asker's business entity or her tax situation.

Free is costing you a fortune.

That's right, I said it.

  • If you are trying to piece information to help you grow your business - with free information
  • If you are trying to get legal advice to protect you as you grow your business - with free advice
  • If you are trying to use free financial, marketing, business planning, production, web development input

.......your business is pretty likely going nowhere fast.

I can give you example after example of people who got free websites from "friends" that took ages to finish and are still not properly designed and developed.

I can give you case after case of people who bartered for business plans. Guess what? Those business plan writers suddenly vanished in the middle of the project leaving these folks high and dry.

Like you, I love getting free info, reports, books, but understand this:

There is a really high price for not paying for quality, service, or information. It's going to cost you much more in the long run in time, mistakes, and effectiveness.

I see this FREE mentality as an addiction; a disease that is killing off robust, healthy, responsible enterprise.

Expecting a lot for nothing. As a business owner and professional: do you see anything wrong with that equation?

One of my favorite business gurus, Michael Hyatt recently wrote a great blog post on How To Use Free To Drive Your Marketing Strategy. In his post, he also shares his concern about free as a business strategy, but distinguishes using free as a marketing strategy.

I can sort of get behind this. Sort of.....

Why? Because where do we draw the line?

We train our prospects and clients how to treat us. Free is a very dangerous and powerful tool.

Use it right, and it can open lots of doors. Overuse it and it's like going on a drinking binge and waking up after a blackout. You don't know where you're going or where you've been.

In Chris Anderson's book FREE: The Future of A Radical Price (Hyperion 2009) he says:

"Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it is."

FREE becomes an unhealthy drug , because we don't have to take any risks. And as humans, we are afraid of loss much more than we are drawn to gain.

So where does that leave you as a service business owner?

Am I recommending No More Free across the board?

Am I being a hypocrite because I still offer some items for FREE on my website and my blog?

Not really.

Here's why:

The Solution To Tire-Kicking Free-Stuff Seekers

I recommend FREE in selective, well-controlled doses.

I recommend establishing very clear guidelines in your own mind about where FREE ends and FOR FEE begins.

Here are my recommendations for you to get off FREE and build respectable FEES so your business can thrive.

1. Train prospects and clients that your knowledge, expertise, information, and tools comes with an corresponding appropriate price.

2. Selectively offer appetizer-sized bits of information and tips to prospects giving them a fair, reasonable taste of what you can do to help them be successful and accomplish their objectives.

3. Stop giving FREE sessions. That's right. I said it.

By offering a for-fee introductory session ( I have no problem offering this initial session at an "appetizer rate") you will quickly learn who is willing to have skin in the game and who is just kicking tires, who just wants something for nothing. If you are the only one with skin in the game, your prospect has zero accountability and values you and your expertise less.

As Michael Hyatt indicates, using FREE as a marketing lever to build your subscribers is a viable strategy. The key is to not overdo it and begin to train your readers and followers that they can get lots and lots of FREE from you and hold off on hiring you.

FREE should be the appetizer, not the meal.

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I could not resist commenting on Dilbert on Social Media: Vague Plans , or costly BS Plans. (Comic by Scott Adams: Dilbert)

A great illustration of the two polar reactions to social media experts.

  1. We don't know exactly what you do nor do we understand what you are talking about so, then you must be right.
  2. Social media experts are full of costly bullsh**t.

People who believe 1. will eventually be disappointed because you are not performing magic.

The people who believe 2. will never trust you.

Part of our responsibility is to educate people about online marketing and to give them value for their investment.

Just because some people believe those one of the statements does not mean that social media gurus, inbound marketers, and online experts have to be that way.

Here are a few things to practice:

  1. Be Transparent: There is no secret sauce. Anyone with a Google Search Engine and some time can learn what you know about social media. Tell people what you are doing.
  2. It's a Science: There is a science to all of this. If you don't think so spend some time on Marketingexperiments.com DanZarrell.com, and SEOMoz.org.
  3. It's an Art: This is marketing and you are asking people to do things like click something or like something. People are different and they react to different things differently. Because something worked once in one situation does not necessarily mean it will work in another situation. Be upfront about the variances but don't be vague.
  4. Don't Over Promise: Just like any business it is important for you to understand what you can deliver and what you cannot. Getting more "likes" on Facebook may not get your client more sales. Be realistic and remember: Under promise and over deliver.
  5. Return On Investment: Measure, track and quantify to demonstrate what your client is getting. Be sure everyone knows what the goal is and how you will show you have achieved it. Offer value.
  6. It's a Tool: Social media is one of the tools in your toolbox and it is not the objective.
  7. Look at the Big Picture: Aligning your skills, tools and methods to your client's goals will help both of you be successful. They say the devil is in the details, but don't drown in a sea of minutiae.

I attended a webinar this morning by Seth Godin, and someone asked him about how to convince people who don't understand social media or inbound marketing to try it.

In essence he said not to bother. The people who think it is bull will continue to think it is bull no matter what. Those who think social media is some vague type of voodoo will never have reasonable expectations. Spend time with those who see the value you can offer and will work with you to achieve their goals.

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From time-to-time, we decide to use celebrity talent at re:group. Celebrities are great: they're fun, they're well spoken...and, hey, we'd be lying if we said we overlooked the fact that they're usually good looking.

But, although celebrities do a great job satisfying your shiny object syndrome, we want to warn you that committing to use them in marketing or advertising must be a strategic decision.

pete-thomas-workout

The "Biggest Loser's" Pete Thomas as HealthPlus of Michigan's Health & Wellness Expert

There must be a connection between the celebrity and the brand. The Martha Stewart Collection at Kmart was a perfect example. It made complete sense to have Martha talk about her products in a store that supplied her premium selection of home goods. Similarly, if a celebrity has a charitable connection with an organization, it is an obvious extension to have someone with such a wide reach be the brand spokesperson or at least provide a testimonial. Think Marlo Thomas and her relationship with St Jude Children's Research Hospital. It also makes sense to consider using a celebrity when he has performed a role so many times that he is an 'expert' on subject or industry, like Dennis Haysbert as the "authority" for Allstate.

One of the cautions about celebrity talent is that their presence can sometimes overpower the message you're trying to convey. This can happen when people are so distracted by the talent that they aren't paying attention to the communication, or when a seemingly nice celebrity turns out to be not such a great a guy after all. When you have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, you need to weigh the risk of a potential temperamental personality disrupting your carefully planned production with the value that they can add to the execution.

Fortunately, we were extremely lucky with a recent production that used celebrity talent. Strategically, he was selected because he was an expert in the role we needed him to play. And, to our good fortune, was an absolute pleasure to work with--someone who cared about giving us his best work and was a genuinely nice person to have on the set.

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I have talked about User Generated Content(UGC) videos and touched on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) videos that got a few of my colleagues discussing the pros and cons.

Of course a lot of us would be happy if everyone who needed a video would just hire a professional!

After all, that is how a lot of us make a living and I don't want to discourage anyone from using a professional. However there are times when a DIY video is just what you need. I've touched on what are the best types of video to use online in the past and different occasions call for different types of video.

My friend Jack Brumm of Pixel Wire Media pointed out that if your business strategy involves being "high-end" then producing substandard videos doesn't help your strategy. He then went on to say that he was talking to Steve Garfield, the online video expert from Boston, who talked about his concept of "business casual" videos.

The idea is that a lot of people are becoming accustomed to DIY videos on YouTube and if the information is compelling then just do it and make the video. This makes a lot of sense in a lot of instances.

For example a lot of business is not conducted in formal settings or corporate board rooms. A lot of business is conducted at informal networking events in khaki slacks with an open collar or out in the field in work boots and jeans. There is no reason why some of your videos can't be the same way.

Perhaps you are on the run, on the plant floor or at a conference and a quick video blog on your flip phone is the way to quickly and efficiently get content out. That gives the video a bit of urgency, immediacy and a bit of personal connection that is not found in many online videos. I would say experiment with this and try it.

I would caution against a one-size-fits-all approach to business videos online. There are times when you have to put on the white shirt, red tie and black wing-tipped shoes for that professional look. And by professional I don't mean stuffy business look, I mean a well-crafted, effective message.

Take a look at your marketing strategy. Where do style, content and professionalism count? Where is it appropriate to loosen your tie and be more casual? Who is your audience? What are you trying to accomplish? What will they respond to? Where does this fit into your online and social media strategy? Match your online video to match your business marketing strategy.

When do you think a "business casual" video would work? Is anyone trying it?

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Your website sells products, gives timely information, provides help, shows locations, answers frequently asked questions, gives information about the company, establishes your bloggers as thought leaders, and then load quickly.

It has to do many of these things and so sometimes competes with itself.

This charming short video by Google explains what happens next.

When you are serious about treating your website as business tool, then you are ready for Google Analytics.

When you are serious about marketing to franchises, connect with Joe or me on LinkedIn.

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Do you have a fear of commitment when it comes to social media? If so, you're not alone. I came across the infographic below, which shows that 86% of people surveyed will leave a website if they are asked to fill out a form.

I thought about this from my own perspective, and I believe I would fall into the 86%. If I'm just browsing online, filling out a form, at least for me, signals some level of commitment to the company - most times I don't want to make it, so I will move on to the next thing.

form.png

However, if I'm truly interested in a company or website, I may fill out a form depending on what it is. The general reasons outlined in this infographic as to why people will leave rather than fill out a form are rather interesting, and make sense:

  • The form is too long
  • They are not sure how the information will be used
  • Password fatigue

The first two points make good sense and companies should be mindful of both when creating such forms. We all know that the point of having users complete forms is generally for lead generation; it's important to be transparent in the reasons for collecting a user's information.

Offering some of the following information can be helpful and sway people to complete the form:

  • That the information they share will not be shared or sold to third parties Will the user simply have access to information on your site?
  • Will you be sending emails/promotional offers?
  • If the information will be used for future communications, what is the approximate frequency?

Of course you want to capture as much information as possible when users are interested enough to complete a form. Just remember that it's the first step in relationship building - collect only the information you need on a very basic level at first.

People are wary of completing forms, so make it simple enough that you can start to create a relationship without turning away potential interest.

Password fatigue - how I love this term! I also love this statistic from the infographic: "2 in 5 feel that solving world peace would be easier than remembering all of their passwords."

Respondents also say that they'd rather have a social login for sites, meaning that they can log in via Facebook or Twitter. I can see that for convenience; I'll bet there are some, like me, who actually don't prefer this because I don't want to tie a site necessarily to my Facebook or Twitter account, and I'm not always sure if it will show up on my feeds or not.

This is a great infographic for companies to keep in mind when creating forms and lead generation capture points on their websites.

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According to research by Cisco more than half of all consumer internet traffic is video and it will continue to grow. That would suggest that video would be a great way for businesses to engage their customers. The other side of the coin Cisco's research reveled is it would take over 6 million years to watch all the video currently online.

This means there is a lot of competition so just making a video will not help you increase traffic or increase sales.

Part of the reason is the businesses often do not know how to effectively use online video and these mistakes prevent people from finding your video and may even cause you to lose customers.

  1. Making a Viral Video: If anyone suggests to you that success depends on making a viral video throw them out on their ear. That is like telling a teenage garage band that the way to rock superstardom is to record a hit record. Make videos with valuable content that people need. Worry more about providing value and less about making a hit.
  2. Not Optimizing the Video for Search: YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google and because Google owns YouTube there are a lot of similarities. Both search engines search the metadata attached to the video looking for keywords and phrases that indicate what the video is about. Using keywords in the title, description, categories and tags will help audience find your video. Check out the ebook: SEO for YouTube Videos.
  3. No Call to Action: Why are you making the video and what do you want people to do after they watch it? Tell them what you want them to do in the video and in the description for the video.
  4. Not linking to website: If you tell people to go to your website or a landing page you need to put in a link. We all know that you cannot put a hot link in a video but you can put it in the description of the video. I suggest putting the link somewhere in the first two lines and remember to include the "http://". While you are at it remember to link to a valuable landing page related to the video that is not usually your home page.
  5. Not attaching a Transcript: YouTube now has the capability of transcribing your video's audio content and attaching it to the video. This transcript can be used by the closed caption option on YouTube and it can be searched by search engines giving your video a better chance of being found by people interested in the content. (See How to add Closed Captioning on YouTube Videos).
  6. Video Blog Misuse: There is nothing wrong with video blogs but I've often seen blogs that are just a series of videos posted with no other information. If you are going to use videos as blog posts, especially if you are going to use video exclusively for blog posts, use the transcript (see No. 5) as the text in the blog. This will help with search engines and give people who prefer to read another option. At the very least give a description of the video so viewers know what it is about.
  7. Making the Video Too long: There is no optimal length for an online video but remember you do not have a captive audience. They can turn off the video at any time. Use the analytics tools in YouTube to see when people stop watching your video and you'll get a good idea how long your next video should be. In most cases you have 10 seconds to convince your viewer to keep watching.
  8. Poor Quality: If the quality of the video makes it difficult to follow, hear or watch it will do more harm than good. This does not mean that every video needs to be a Hollywood production but it does mean the quality should not get in the way of the message.
  9. Using the wrong video in the wrong place: For business and marketing videos there are generally three types of online video but they are often used in the wrong way. Outreach videos are distributed widely and encourage people to visit your website. Landing page or closing videos tell the visitor why they should buy your product or service. Post sales engagement videos such as training videos help your customers after the sale. The exact mix of these videos change from business to business but think about what video fits best with your prospects in your sales process. For more information take a look at my blog: The 3 Stages of Video Marketing.
  10. The video does not represent the organization: Just because a video gets lots of viewers does not mean it is a good video for your organization or company. The video must represent the values of the organization not only in its message but in its production values and style. An investment company should expect to make one type of video and a quirky, avant garde restaurant another type of video.

It is important to think about how a video will be viewed by your potential customers, how it represents your business and what you want them to do after they have viewed the video. Your goal should not only be to get viewers but to get the right viewers, people who need your services or product. Videos are not only about broadcasting a message but in providing value. Make something valuable and do not forget to have a call to action.

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Marketers have successfully used direct mail to sell just about every product and service you can imagine, at just about every price you can imagine as well.

So if you're taking a look at direct mail to sell your own product or service, you're on the right track.

But let's back up a step. In order to sell, you need customers. Happily, there is no better medium than direct mail for finding potential customers -- and for turning them into paying ones.

Four advantages unique to direct mail make this possible:

1. Direct mail is targeted. Want to reach prospects within five miles (or more!) of your location? There's a mailing list. Want to reach people who buy sweaters? There's a list. People whose demographics and interests resemble those of customers you already have? Yes, there's a list.

This targeting ability is extremely valuable. If your product or service applies to, say, one in 100 people, using mass media to reach all 100 people wastes 99¢ of every dollar you spend. Direct mail lets you target the one, effectively multiplying the power of your advertising 100 times -- without costing you a penny extra.

2. Direct mail is interactive. It is a medium that can call people by name on first contact. Moreover, direct mail creates dialog, by letting people reply to you. That way, you can build and mine a database of customers, along with their interests, habits and purchases.

3. Direct mail cannot be ignored. There is one way for people to sort mail: by looking at it. So when your direct mail communicates a benefit and a strong brand, you're getting your message across to 100 percent of your target.

4. People like mail. At work and at home, people look forward to receiving and looking through their mail. That can't be said for all marketing mediums.

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

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

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

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

How to Extend Your PR Coverage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Need to Extend Your PR Coverage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This has been a guest post by Debra Vilchis.

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

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

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

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

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


Digital advertising + organic marketing = results

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

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

organic = advertising

New capabilities: target, track, convert and analyze

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

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

TARGET

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

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

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

geo-target advertising

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


TRACK + RETARGET

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

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

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

Starbucks Chai Tea Latte

Retargeted ad for starbucks


CONVERT

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

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


ANALYZE

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

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

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

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


Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Your Products and Services Strategy

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

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

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

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

Using Content Marketing for Business Digital Public Relations

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

The questions to ask and answer about these results are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

-Wear vs. Where
-There vs. Their

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

Other common typos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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]

Direct Mail Advertising: Thinking Outside the (Mail)Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complement Digital Programs

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

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

The End of "One Version Fits All"

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

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

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

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

Explore New Materials

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

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

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

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

From Carpet Bombing to Precision Targeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am right...right?

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

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

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

Key places to look for data:

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

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

Things you should you look for in your global data:

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

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

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

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

Many years ago, a favorite cousin decided to open a pizza shop. Everyone told her that she made the best pizza in the world - and she did! Even though a pizza shop is a great business idea, I just wish I could have convinced her that the public doesn't want to buy "the best pizza in the world".

The public wants to buy "the most convenient pizza in the world," which is why there are so many pizza shops. When people are hungry for pizza, they don't want to wait!

Too Few Buyers
Unfortunately for my cousin, she lost everything to her great business idea. But it wasn't because people didn't like her pizza. They loved it! It's just that not enough people bought her pizza.

What really sunk her business was her marketing plan.

She invested huge chunks of money in the wrong marketing tactics.

For example, she thought ads in the Sunday newspaper would make the phone ring. They did, but not enough to justify the cost of the ads.

She either didn't know about door hangers - which actually do sell pizza for a fraction of the cost of other advertising - or she considered them unworthy of her product.

I understand, but I wish I didn't.

Listen to the Public
People often complain that franchises have dumbed down product quality. Even if that's true, the public isn't complaining!

And that's what you need to understand about business ideas and franchises. Selling "the best" of anything isn't necessarily the goal, at least not anymore. But less than the best doesn't mean it's bad, either. It just means the public has spoken. And you need to listen!

Marketing is the key that unlocks the vault to the public's desires, and money. And the franchise company that understands that is a contender for your investment dollars!

And now that I've spoken, I'm calling my favorite franchised pizza shop . . . I know they listen!

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]

There is a lot of nonsense written by smart people about storytelling.

And, most of their talk is just a story - not worth listening to. Nobody uses a story to show why storytelling is more convincing than any other expository form. They just tell us that it is. Crap, I say.

But, Roger Schank is very different.

He is worth listening to.

Roger Schank explains the deep reasons that we have to tell stories.

The smartest thing Roger says - on why one way dialogues don't convince is this:

At around 2:48, on listening to a lecture, a version of a one way dialogue, Roger shows that the audience has a terrible problem of focus:

"This puts you in an awkward position as I talk, because you can either be thinking about what you think or you can be listening to me but you can't do both."

So, how do you chose the stories you want to tell?

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]

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.

A Fish Story

When I was much younger, my grandfather used to take my younger brother and me fishing. Fishing on one of the lakes in the interior of B.C.

We would get up at 5:00 am to help Grandpa Webster pack up the Ford Camper. Drive for what seemed like 12 hours, but was only 3 or 4.

Grandpa had his favorite lakes. In the 1940's, Al Webster was running a hotel at 100 Mile House in the interior of B.C. So, Al knew a lot about hunting & fishing.

The lakes he liked were accessible only by logging roads. Roads which were not maintained. Sometimes nothing more than 2 deep ruts into the bush.

When we arrived at camp, my brother and I were eager to go fishing right away.

But, we had to wait until the next morning.

Grandpa would wake us at 4:00 a.m. And it was chilly -even in the summer- on those mountain lakes that early in the morning.

We would dress in several layers over our pyjamas. Get into the back of his 15' boat and go trolling.

Grandpa had 50HP Mercury, which he hated because it wouldn't go slow enough to troll properly he said. But, he needed its power when we had to get off the lake in a hurry.

We would troll in and out of the bays. Until we found where a school of fish was feeding.

And, then if we were lucky, all hell would break loose.

Catch 4, 6, or even 10 lake trout or salmon within 18 minutes.

Fish for eating. Fish to be flash frozen back at camp. Not for catch and release. My grandfather despised trophy fishing.

But, most of the time we weren't lucky. We were just bored.

Catching, reeling in and netting a lake trout is fun.

Trolling up and down a cold lake in the morning's damp mist and not getting a nibble for several hours? Not so much fun.

Back then we didn't have the technology that fishermen have today.

We couldn't afford a depth finder. Grandpa wasn't impressed with such tools. He preferred to determine the depth of the lake by measuring how long it took for our lines to hit bottom.

Then, we would reel in and come up to the exact right depth. Or sometimes not. We always blamed it on the lousy lures, when we returned to camp without any fish.

I really wanted a depth finder back then. If only just to break up the boredom.

Well, I told you that story just to tell you another. This time about content marketing.

Using content marketing articles to attract leads has a lot in common with fishing.

With content marketing & fishing there is the potential for a lot of boredom.

You think that every flashy article will lure all the right people to your offer. And for the most part, you are not right.

And a few times, fewer than you would like, your content does work. It lures the right people to the offer on your website. And the fish are biting.

A Depth Finder for Content Marketing - Google Analytics

So wouldn't it be nice to have something like a depth finder for your content marketing articles.

How much should it cost, do you think?

How well it would it work?

Could it be simple to set up?

Cheap, good & simple are not usually found together.

Yet, this is exactly what implementing Google Analytics on your website will give you. A cheap, good & simple "depth finder".

I had demonstrated for you a neat application using Google Analytics which showed you the best place to put your links on your website.

Remember too, we had talked about the attention economy -where you trade your knowledge for their email and name.

Now, let's put both ideas together.

Find the right places to fish for leads. And lure them to an irresistible offer on your website.

1. How much attention does the typical content marketing article attract on Franchise-Info attract?

Ok, so for a month this article attracted a little over 80 readers. People who spent on average 4:47 minutes reading the article.

fish 1.png

That is pretty good.

But, you can see that for most of the month the article attracted zero attention --it was all bunched into a couple of days.

You wouldn't expect to get a lot of leads from this article. It just doesn't create enough attention.

2. A month's worth of attention.

The next article is significantly better, but not as common.

fish 1.png

You can see that for the month of March, this article continually attracted attention.

In fact, this article garnered 750 readers who spent an average time of 4:33 minutes reading it.

Ok, that author had 750 people knocking on her door asking for more. Those would be great leads.

At the very least, for that month of March, the author could have connected with those readers who looked at the author's LinkedIn profile.

3. One year's worth of attention.

Now, our next example is even better. And rarer, too. It is almost the ideal content marketing piece.

For an entire year, this article attracted attention.

fish 1.png

Over 1800 readers for the entire year, and each reader spent 5:55 minutes reading the article.

Now, that is a terrific amount of attention. It is a great lead generating article. Hopefully, the author had a great offer to make in exchange for all that attention!

4. The Energizer Bunny of Content Marketing Articles

Finally, we have an article which just keeps on going, and going, creating quality leads each month. Month in and month out.

This article attracted over 6,000 readers, 6,159, last year. And since it was published in August, 2013, the article has been read by 9,013 readers.

fish 1.png

And we have collected a lot of leads from this article's success.

None of this is difficult. Google Analytics is easy and free to implement.

The Moral of the Fish Story

To have your prospect know, then like and finally trust you, you need a plan.

Part of that plan is convert some attention into people who like you enough to give you their name/email in exchange for some of your knowledge.

So, when a lot of people do finally pay attention to a specific article, make sure you are giving them something in return.

Or you will return to camp without any fish.

Recommendations 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]

It's no secret that a great sales team has a significant impact on the number of franchisee leads your company produces, but a strategic franchise public relations plan can also play a vital role in lead generation.

When done correctly, content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, according to a recent study by Demand Metric.

At Ripley PR, we know just how important it is to develop relevant content and optimize it for the most impact with your target audience.

We've highlighted three key PR tools that will help to increase leads:

  • Press Releases: Building brand equity is important, and using non-paid avenues helps add to the credibility of your company. From new hires to new locations, a PR agency can help you determine news worthy stories that will keep your franchise's name in relevant news outlets and at the top of mind of potential leads.
  • Blogs: According to WebDAM, B2B companies that blog generate 67 percent more leads than companies that don't. A PR firm will not only develop the blogs for you, but we also understand the importance of SEO and keywords that improve your overall ranking in search results.
  • Discovery Days: Face time is valuable, especially with potential franchisees that are on the fence. Hosting a discovery day allows them to see the type of franchise that you own, and a PR firm can not only help in the planning of the event but also get the word out to key media contacts that will reach your target audience.

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]

Ripley PR understands the importance of lead generation to the overall success of your franchise, and we specialize in helping franchisors improve sales through a comprehensive B2B public relations strategy. Contact us today to get started on a plan that will compliment your current sales strategy.

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]

Boosting website traffic is essential for local businesses: all the visitors to your website are potential customers.

However, actually driving traffic and increasing visitors to your site is a challenge - especially for businesses with new websites.

Many businesses are hesitant to invest in advanced traffic strategies until they see a correlation between in-store sales and website visitors.

However, without website traffic, a business' local online marketing strategy will suffer (a perfect example of the chicken and the egg cycle caused by inaction). To get out of the chicken/egg rut, you should learn and master a few local business website traffic strategies and start using them in your marketing mix.

You can drive local business website traffic by learning how to use the right tools and mastering how traffic methods work.

There are three main ways to get more website traffic:

  1. Paid media: PPC and display ads, ad words, sponsored posts, etc.
  2. Owned media: websites, blogs and social media pages
  3. Earned media: free publicity, word of mouth, social media mentions/shares/reposts, positive reviews and organic SEO

Read on for a website traffic overview and then decide which method works best for your local business -- without spending a large portion of your marketing budget.

1. Paid media

Covering the ins and outs of paid media is beyond the scope of this article (there are entire courses dedicated to this topic), but with a few basic guidelines you will be able to decide if it is a good marketing strategy for your local business.

a. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

PPC advertising (or banner ads) are ads you place on targeted websites to drive traffic back to yours. PPC ads are effective in driving traffic quickly, but if you don't carefully manage them, they could end up costing you a lot of money (and have nothing to show for it).

There are many reasons why businesses choose to use PPC advertising, including:

  • It is a way to drive traffic to your website while you up your SEO game
  • For companies that don't have great rankings, it can help make up for lost time
  • They have the ability to geo-target ads by city, state or zip code

If you are interested in using PPC advertising as a part of your strategy (and aren't familiar with things such as programmatic ad buying and using data science to buy ads) it is best to find an expert that can guide you.

b. Ad words

Ad words is when you bid auction-style on a particular keyword in a search engine (such as Google or Bing). The higher the bid, the better placement your ad will receive on the search engine results landing page. The marketplace determines price of keywords: high-demand keywords are very expensive (i.e.: "buy car insurance online" or "cheapest homeowner loans") while keywords that aren't as popular are relatively cheap. The actual cost of keywords can fluctuate from a few pennies for obscure, long-tail keywords to hundreds of dollars for the most competitive words.

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If you choose to use ad words, keep in mind that you will be competing against your large national counterparts, who most-likely will have a higher bidding price than you. The good news for local businesses is that bids are affected by how well a bidder's website ranks and the relevance of the landing page, often giving you an edge over those with unlimited budgets.

c. Social paid media

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and soon Pinterest) all offer businesses opportunity to pay for media that will reach a targeted audience. Paid media on social are usually called "sponsored/promoted posts/tweets" and blend seamlessly into the network.

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There are many ways to have an effective social media strategy and not pay for posts. Check out this free resource for strategies that will drive traffic to your website, but not cost you a fortune.

2. Owned media

Owned media includes assets that could be considered an "extension" of your business and that are fully controlled by you. Examples include your website, blogs and social media pages.

Regularly updating and posting to your owned media assets is crucial to boosting their ranking on search engines (and thus driving traffic to your website).

  • Add more content: Website content includes blog and social media posts, how-to guides, ebooks, etc. And one new blog post won't help -- if you can't regularly commit to posting, it is best to hire someone to do it for you. According to researchers, it takes about 20 quality blog posts to start seeing traffic growth.
  • Write valuable content: The quality of published content is more important than quantity. The headlines of your posts should draw readers in and your content should highlight your areas of expertise.
  • Include videos and photos: Not only do videos and photos receive 5x the engagement vs. posts without, they are a great way for your business to stand out from the crowd and personalize your website. Some ideas for videos include employee interviews, product descriptions and customer testimonials. Create a YouTube channel and start posting videos to drive additional traffic.

3. Earned media

Earned media is free promotion your business receives. Examples include unpaid publicity, word of mouth, mentions/shares/reports on social media and reviews on sites, such as Yelp. While you can't directly control your earned media, you can encourage it by keeping your customers happy (who will, in turn, provide you with positive reviews, recommend you to friends, share your social media posts, etc.) and building your owned media platforms correctly.

a. Organic SEO

Increasing organic traffic to your website is something any business can accomplish -- at a reasonable price (usually, your time). However, unlike PPC advertising which is immediate, building your organic SEO takes time. A good place to start is to ensure your website, blog and social media pages all incorporate the keywords you would like to rank for.

Local businesses have a leg-up in the organic SEO game, due to the rise of mobile, simply because of how search engines classify their business. For example, Google gives priority to local businesses when a searcher is on a mobile device because they assume they are looking for a business nearby to visit. Make sure your website includes a phone number (with a local area code) and local address to rise even higher in the SEO rankings.

b. Review sites

Mention the word "Yelp" in a room full of local businesses and you'll get strong opinions (both positive and negative). Why? Because review sites, and the reviews left on them, have a powerful impact on local businesses.

If you aren't familiar with Yelp, check out this free guide on getting set up.

Search engine algorithms are heavily influenced by review sites -- in some cases, your Yelp page will appear higher than your website.

c. Social media

In the past few years, social media exploded and is now an essential part of any online marketing strategy. When you update your website (with a deal, new product, etc.), you should also be sharing that information on your social media pages so your audience knows where to go for more information (your website).

d. Directories

Directory optimization is a critical part of any online marketing strategy and every local business should submit their information to the major directories:

If you are curious about how your local business appears on major directories, run a free report today.

While every directory has a different set of guidelines for listings, your submissions should all be consistent and identical in order to up your organic SEO.

Most local businesses use a combination of paid, owned and earned media to drive traffic to their website (and therefore, in-store). We would love to hear the mix that works best for your business and how you made the decisions -- please share your stories in the comments section below.

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 Strategies to Boost Local Business Website Traffic appeared first on LocalVox.

What is the New PR?

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New Business. We just love it. It's the cause for much excitement in any marketing or PR firm, ad agency, law office. Pretty much everyone likes to win new business.

But after 30 years as a franchise PR specialist, I have learned to ask myself "Is all new business worth the 'high' you get from winning it?" And moreover, are all clients worth keeping because you can't part with that fee?

The answer, I promise you is NO.

Here are some reasons to turn down a possible new client and/or fire an old one.

  • At the first meeting they already know more about your business than you do. Or they think they do.
  • As happened to me recently, they are horribly rude to one of your references.
  • You see them treating other vendors, employees or franchisees badly. They will do the same to you.
  • They try to get your price down once you have set a reasonable fee for what they need.
  • An existing client is always going around you to one of your staffers for "extras".
  • They are extremely demanding and their expectations are out of control, yet they have no idea how you do what you do.
  • They are never available and blame you for not delivering.
  • They are consistently rude and nasty to you or your staff.
  • They are consistently late with payment.
  • You have a gut feeling they are just "sketchy".

I feel I have touched on all major reasons but if you have other bullet points or perhaps a different point of view please do share.

We all have to deal with difficulty in life.

But I have found that sometimes the drain on your energy and emotions can be much more damaging than having to cut out a couple of expenses here and there.

Then again, 30 years in one demanding business like PR can be akin to being repeatedly pelted with hail!

When you need someone for your Franchising PR who has been through the hail storms, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's chat.

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]

You're on the franchise trade show circuit.

You get articles in franchising trade publications.

And, you do radio podcasts.

1. Speaking

Speaking at franchise trade shows and events is great way get in front of an audience 50, 75 or more people to talk about franchising.

You're there to speak to people and market yourself to franchise buyers and franchisors. This is a pretty darn good way to develop new business.

If you can capture the names of the attendees and follow up with them on a consistent basis, you are doing even better than most of your competitors.

2. Writing

Writing topical articles on franchising in trade publications is a terrific technique to get in front of franchising readers and have them learn about your point-of-view on important franchise issues and how to solve problems. However it's very hard to convert these readers unless you've included a call-to-action that motivates them to do something to contact you.

3. Radio

Radio is one of the oldest and most effective ways to market.

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You capture people's attention with an interesting topic with lively give and take between the on-air personalities.

Radio podcasts on franchising are popular.

However is anyone listening?

I don't know of any franchise podcasts that have a verified audience or a way to distribute their episodes.

You could be having a lively radio show with no listeners. And who wants that?

Franchise-Info has programs that can get your content like articles, presentations and even those podcasts in front of franchise readers.

You don't need virgin content since we can use what you've already created.

We can even use those radio show podcasts that had no listeners and distribute them to our franchising audience.

What we can guarantee is that you'll reach people who can do business with you.

Message me at [email protected] or call 443.502.2636 and we'll pick the program that bests fits your marketing objectives.

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

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

As a franchise business, you are tied to numerous employees and owners who directly impact your overall brand message. Whether a crisis strikes your company as a whole or an individual franchisee, your entire brand can see negative effects.

However, with the proper franchise public relations strategies set in place, your franchise system can safeguard itself from potential crises that may arise.

We've outlined four ways to avoid a crisis through different PR strategies:

1. Reputation management - With a comprehensive public relations strategy put into place, your business can benefit from multiple forms of reputation management. This includes monitoring your franchise online presence, regularly earning positive media coverage, and establishing your system as credible to potential leads.

2. Crisis plan - When your company has a professionally-prepared plan on hand, it can help prepare your business for a potential crisis before it arises. A well-thought out crisis plan will define possible scenarios that could impact your franchise, establish a crisis spokesperson, and outline the best courses of action to take during media scrutiny.

3. Media policy - Having a public relations professional develop a media policy for your company can help maintain positive media relations, and relay accurate information to your brand's audience. These policies are designed to designate a company spokesperson, and outline procedures for speaking to press regarding your franchise business.

4. Social media policy - In the franchise realm, most companies will have localized social media pages for each franchisee. With so many voices managing your brand's social networking presence, it's vital to develop a franchise social media policy to outline rules and regulations for representing your company online. Having a policy set in place will help to avoid brand confusion and varying messages to consumers.

Your reputation as a franchise is an invaluable source for generating sales leads. Don't let a crisis cause a chain reaction that negatively impacts your company, your brand, and your franchisees. At Ripley PR, we have extensive experience developing B2B public relations and franchise communications strategies for our clients. Contact us today for more information.

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 1991 a client of mine appeared in both Entrepreneur and INC. magazine in the same month and with a fabulous photo. The photo was also the same and both editors hit me pretty hard.

I knew the rules but one editor ran it a month ahead of the planned date.

So in that October issue both magazines featured this great young company, Juice Club with the young management team lying in a pile of oranges.

That company became Jamba Juice within six months, but it took me that same amount of time to mend my relationships with those editors. As a PR pro I needed those editors more than that client!

Relationships were what it was all about between us and the media. That editor, reporter, producer had to trust you and know you. I had the industry by the tail because I had great relationships and my clients knew my policy.

I would never lie or exaggerate for them because I couldn't ever lose my media contact.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Many think it's all about the hashtag.

But PR is so much more than that.

Everyone thinks all you need to do is tweet a reporter and the job is done. I have clients who say "just call the reporter and ask them to do a bigger story". What?

I had one young and brand new marketing person tell me a week ago "there are tons of papers looking for news". Really? Not only are there no longer tons of papers, but the ones still around and even those from the past do not consider a franchise convention in the area as news.

I don't expect my clients or those who do not work with the media to know exactly what is going on out there. But here are some frightening facts.

  • In August, the Cleveland Plain Dealer lay off put one-third of its staff out of work and Gannett also began laying off hundreds of reporters/staff members at paper's such as Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Kentucky, Enquirer, Green Bay Press Gazette, Des Moines Register, Tennessean.

  • Major metro dailies that have cut frequency or adopted online-only models: Ann Arbor News, Capital Times, Catskill Daily Mail & Hudson Register-Star, Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, East Valley Tribune, Flint Journal, Bay City Times, Saginaw News, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Syracuse Post-Standard, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register, Portland Oregonian, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Daily Press, Mesabi Daily News, Red Wing Republican Eagle, Journal Register, Tonawanda News, Portsmouth Daily Times, Nevada Appeal, Clarksdale Press Register, Rushville Republican, Eden Daily News, Reidsville Review, Frederick News-Post, Kane County Chronicle, Sidney Daily News, Piqua Daily Call, Troy Daily News, Pittsburg Morning Sun, Marion Daily Republican, Kewanee Star Courier, Daily Review Atlas, McPherson Sentinel, Standard Journal, Daily Californian, Daily Orange, Las Vegas Optic, Burlington County Times, Bucks County Courier Times, California Aggie, Mt. Airy Messenger, Hernando Today, Superior Telegram, Capital Times, Minnesota Daily, Kansas City Kansan, Elgin Courier News, Klamath Falls Herald and News, Columbia Missourian, and the Washington Times.

  • U.S. metro dailies that have closed since the start of the recession: Tucson Citizen, Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner, Kentucky Post, Cincinnati Post, King County Journal, Union City Register-Tribune, Halifax Daily News, Albuquerque Tribune, South Idaho Press, San Juan Star, Honolulu Advertiser

  • Since 2008, more than 166 newspapers in the United States have closed down or stopped publishing a print edition, according to Paper Cuts, a website dedicated to tracking the US press industry downturn. More than 39 print titles shut down in 2008, and 109 did so in 2009. So far in 2010, more than 18 papers have vanished. Since March 2007, there have been nearly 35,000 job losses or redundancies.

  • The following newspapers and newspaper chains have filed for bankruptcy reorganization: Tribune Company, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Newspapers company, the Chicago Sun Times, who last year fired their entire photo department, the Journal Register Co., American Community Newspapers, Freedom Communications, Heartland Publications, Creative Loafing and the Columbian newspaper in Vancouver. Others, such as Morris Publishing and Affiliated Media (the parent company of MediaNews Group), did bankruptcy reorganization filings prearranged with creditors.

  • It's not just newspapers! Major newsweeklies such as U.S. News & World Report, Time, The Economist, and Newsweek have majorly cut back on spending and space. Time, the only major print newsweekly left standing, cut 5% of its staff in early 2013.

  • A growing list of media outlets, including Forbes magazine, use technology to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporter necessary.

  • Local TV affiliates across the country are operating with skeleton staffs. Anchors are not only doing their own reporting, but their own videotaping as well. Sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts and story lengths have shrunk.

  • Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1987.

Fortunately it was my job to see this coming a long time ago and we evolved over this time to perfect what works today.

But even as I did see "the cheese moving" I don't think any of us in the business expected to have a literal wipeout of the hundreds of respected titles and major dailies that occurred and in a very short period of time.

The battle for print space is a big one.

Now, more than ever you need an expert to position your company and control the messaging.

It is a mistake to think that just because you are good on social media you have a real public relations program. The new buzz term is "content marketing". But that constitutes a whole other article.

Rhonda Sanderson is president/founder of Sanderson & Associates PR, a public relations firm that has been specializing in franchising since 1986. www.sandersonpr.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]

1. Your Website is a Grocery Store with Shelves Full of Links

When you go to the grocery store, you walk down the aisles. Most of the time, you reach only those items within your reach.

You don't spend a lot of time searching high and low.

Imagine, however, that you are the owner of the grocery stores. You notice that the items on the middle shelves are not moving. You would rotate new stock onto these shelves. Because you hope that the new stock sells.

Something similar happens on your website. People browsing will click on links that are the most convenient.

We know that the links with the most clicks are usually above the fold.

"Elements above the fold were seen more than elements below the fold: the 100 pixels just above the fold were viewed 102% more than the 100 pixels just below the fold."

But, just as the stock on your grocery shelves might need restock or rotating, so might your links -- from below the fold to above the fold.

Some of your links to your best content might need to be moved to a more convenient place.

2. How to Tell at a Glance What Links are Most Read

Here is a "heatmap" of our front page from a couple days ago.

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Ok, red is best, and green is worst -- in terms of readers.

At a glance, you can see that on the right hand column some of our best links, those in red, are lower down the page. On our front page, the most read link is "Prices for Franchise-Info Business Directory", but it is past the fold. It would make sense to move it up. There are some links above them are less valuable. Indeed there is one link near the top, our past newsletter archive, that is largely wasting space.

It would like having a whole shelf full of canned spam --which nobody is buying. Why bother? They aren't interested.

So, this heatmap shows us how to rotate or move upwards above the fold -where we hope that they will get even more attention. And to move less worthy links below the fold.

And, I made the changes, and here is what the heat map now looks like this.

And this small change, over time, will reap big dividends!

3. And, How Do You Get A Heat Map Like This?

There are a number of heat map technologies out there.

But, this one just uses Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a powerful program. Incredibly it is free. Google, some years ago, bought out Urchin software. Urchin was selling its analytics solutions for over $10,000 a month. Yet, we get it for free & much more.

But, managing all that analytic power is overwhelming for many people.

Here is a short-cut. Use the page analytics chrome extension.

The Page Analytics Chrome Extension allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages.

The Page Analytics Chrome Extension allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages, including what they click and don't click.

Use these insights to optimize your website layout, improve user experience, and increase conversions.

Sign up for a free Google Analytics account, sign in.

Then on any page in which you have your google analytics tags on, you will be able to create a heat map. Following these two steps.

1. Go to the page you want the heap map for. And turn on the page analytics extension. The orange button should go from "off" to "on".

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2. Next go to the bottom right of the analytics that are now showing and look for these symbols.

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Just click on the red/orange/green color icon. And you will have created your heat map. (If you want the percentages to show, then click on the icon directly to the right, also.) I have found that you must toggle the heatmap on and off as you move to different pages in your website.

Very simple and yet powerful insights.

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]

So you are an avid LinkedIn member who markets products and services.

And you are posting in LinkedIn Groups articles you have authored and content curated from other sources to get target group member attention.

Since you are marketing you want people to notice you & the products, services and solutions you offer.

This Attract Attention strategy is central to content marketing and especially fits Linkedin.

However it is not foolproof and there are essential things you should do and tragic pitfalls you should avoid.

Here is how you can make your group posting work best.

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Ten Quick Marketing Tactics for Linkedin Groups

  1. Connect with the LinkedIn Group Owner, Managers and Moderators since you may need their help in their LinkedIn Group.
  2. Read the group rules, description and statistics to see how your marketing will fit and be received.
  3. Ensure your post's Auto-Title & Description & Photo are right and the way you want them to look.
  4. Write and Include an Optional Title & Description - be authentic and interesting.
  5. Never use Auto-Posting services like Hoostuite since the Ow.ly short link says you're not really there and don't care to engage.
  6. Carpet Bombing LinkedIn Groups with your posts is a quick way to ensure that you annoy people, get put in Moderation or the nuclear option Blocked & Deleted (SWAMed) - Don't do it.
  7. Audit your LinkedIn Group posts - go back and see if your posts are making it through Moderation, going to Promotions or just getting Deleted. You're connected to the Group Owner ask for help and instructions on what they want from you.
  8. Appending your Discussion posts - you can always add a comment to your own post to attract positive attention to the article.
  9. When you join a new group always begin by commenting on existing Discussions to gain LinkedIn Group credibility
  10. Again Be Interesting. Have a real point of view.. Be generous in your LinkedIn Groups by Commenting, Liking and Following other people's Discussion posts.

For more information on the Franchise-Info Paid Social Programs, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

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

Think about your website and LinkedIn as the former being a booth in a tradeshow & the latter providing the traffic or flow of leads to your booth.

So, what typically happens a tradeshow?

Well, somebody drops by your booth.

After a short chat, you carefully hand over your business card.

And wait. Expectantly. Perhaps, this will be a sale? It's been a long day and sale would make it better.

But, soon your visitor leaves.

You made a rookie mistake, though. You didn't get the business card. The entire point of being at the tradeshow & you blew it.

Nobody buys from you the first time that they meet you.

You have to follow up, navigating the know, like, and trust cycles to get to buy.

You vow never to make that rookie mistake.

And so you don't.

The Biggest Mistake You Are Making on Your Website

But, every day your website commits the same type of error -- to all those visitors coming from LinkedIn.

Remember last time, I told you about 2 surprising but also well known facts about websites.

1. Your 'about us' page is the most visited.

2. Your 'about us' page is the weakest page on your website.

Jeff Hayden had some great general ideas about how to spruce up your 'about us' page.

I also gave you one idea about how make your 'about us' page more like an elevator pitch.

But, there is one bigger change to make.

People who visit your website don't immediately phone you and ask "Can you help me? Name your price."

Worse, they might never get in touch, despite it being a good deal for both of you.

You have to ask them to leave their name/email so you can get in touch with them.

You must offer them something in return.

Like meeting your visitors at your tradeshow booth, it is rude not to offer something of value for their name/email.

And when you are collecting their names/emails, you know that they are interested in what you have to offer.

Otherwise, they wouldn't have made the exchange.

Make An Attractive Offer


Joe and I have signed up tens of thousands of people over the last couple of years.

We make offers that people are interested in. Exchanging their information for something of value from us.

Many times, we simply ask them if they want more of the same. And ask them to sign up for our newsletter.

One article is a perpetual lead generator, since it was published in September, 2013, our article on Popeye's Louisiana Chicken has generated over 7,000 readers.

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It is the Energizer Bunny of lead collection. Leads come in on a monthly basis to our Franchise Buying Newsletter.

Here is how we ask them if they are interested in knowing more.

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When a visitor clicks on the image, they are whisked away to a simple Mailchimp sign-up form for our How to Buy a Franchise - Tips for Savvy Franchise Buyers

And we can help you do the same, collect leads from those people who are interested in doing business with you.

Generating leads and much more ....

If you liked this idea, 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]

One of the biggest frustrations as a business owner is when someone leaves a review that is inaccurate, doesn't pertain to your business or is extremely damaging.

Review websites, such as Google, Yelp and Facebook, don't offer you any easy solutions for handling problematic posts either. On one hand, they don't want to damage the integrity of the brand by allowing businesses to remove reviews that could give potential customers a different view of a business. On the flip side, some reviews do contain inappropriate language, false information and can discourage new customers from coming into your store.

I'm sure you already know the impact reviews can have on your business -- a one star increase on Yelp can result in a 5-9% revenue increase. Positive reviews are easy to handle, but there is also a way to boost your ratings with negative reviews.

To remove reviews is to remove trust

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Removing reviews is not recommended (or allowed) on many review sites because it damages the credibility of the site and the business.

Have you ever gone and seen a movie after hearing your friends, family, coworkers, gym buddies, barista at the coffee shop, etc. singing its praises like it is the best move they have seen this century? Without fail, when you finally go see the movie, it doesn't live up to your expectations and you don't believe the hype next time around.

Just like the movie hype, if a potential customer comes across your reviews and sees only good experiences and not a single bad one -- they might visit your business -- but they are also going to be suspicious that it isn't as great as the reviews say. 68% of consumers trust reviews when they see both positive and negative ones because it's unrealistic that a business will please 100% of its customers 24/7.

To build trust, you should gather reviews organically (vs. paying for positive reviews, which is not allowed FYI) and accept and learn from the feedback your reviewers provide. Perhaps you have a consistent problem with a server who has a bad attitude or aren't open late enough for students leaving night class at the local college to grab a bite; reviews on websites can provide you with opportunities and problems you need to address.

Reviews (negative or positive) give you the chance to see your business the way a consumer sees it -- and become better. Whether it's capitalizing on what you already excel at or improving in areas your business may be lacking. Perhaps you have a consistent problem with a server who has a bad attitude or aren't open late enough for students leaving night class at the local college to grab a bite; reviews on websites can provide you with opportunities and problems you need to address.

However, there is a line that a review can cross and become inappropriate. Inappropriate reviews should not be ignored and should be treated in a careful manner.

When should reviews be removed and how?

Review sites will not allow you to remove reviews unless they violate their established rules.

GOOGLE

Google allows you to flag material you think is inappropriate, which will then be reviewed and removed if deemed necessary.

Google's removes reviews if it is:

  • Advertising
  • Spam
  • Contains phone numbers or URLs
  • Off-topic
  • Contains offensive language
  • Poses a conflict of interest
  • Contains illegal content
  • Has copyrighted content in it
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Involves impersonation
  • Contains confidential content
  • Hate speech

If a review falls under into any of these categories, you can flag it and it will be checked out. Remember, the review needs to violate one of the offenses listed above and a low rating or no explanation for the rating is not a disqualifier.

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FACEBOOK

Facebook follows a similar practice of reporting as Google; they explain inappropriate content that should be flagged in the Facebook Community Standards.

Facebook will remove posts that contain:

  • Violence or make threats
  • Self-harming information
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Hate speech
  • Graphic content
  • Sexually explicit content
  • Private content
  • Spam
  • Compromises security

To report a review to be removed on Facebook, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the review and click in the top right
  2. Click I don't like this review
  3. Click Report and follow the on-screen instructions

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Just like Google, Facebook will look into the post and determine if it should be removed based on the Community Standards.

YELP

Yelp is a bit trickier to maneuver. Unlike Google and Facebook, they don't tell you outright what qualifies a review for removal, but instead lay out what content should not contain:

  • Threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech and other displays of bigotry
  • Conflict of interests
  • Promotional content
  • Irrelevance
  • Privacy concerns
  • Intellectual property

When it comes to reporting content that does not follow Yelp's guidelines, things get more complicated. Depending on what guideline was not followed changes how it should be reported. More often than not, you can simply flag the post and follow up with a short explanation about why you flagged it.

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With every one of these sites, not only can business owners flag reviews as inappropriate but current and potential customers can as well. Therefore, if a customer suspects that a review is fake, they can flag it, too.

What to do when the review isn't removed

Whether or not a review qualifies to be flagged for a removal, you should always respond to it. Whether the content of the review was off-topic, suspected as fake or simply incorrect, you don't have to sit idly by and let potential customers hear one side of the story.

Just as you do when you are replying to any review, you want to acknowledge what the reviewer has written and respond quickly. In the example below, the reviewer doesn't mention the extra fee for re-installing a screen protector. While the omission of this fact doesn't qualify the review for removal, it may influence future buyers and give them unrealistic expectations.

You will also notice that the owner responds to the review and mentions the lifetime warranty and the short fee, which resolves the issue.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 10.54.36 AM

One of the worst things online reviews can do is to make potential customers distrust your business. Whether the distrust is created due to false or negative reviews is irrelevant -- the bottom line is that you are still losing customers.

You have the ability to respond to people talking about your business (on a page dedicated to your business); take advantage of the ability this forum allows to have an open conversation and show customers why they should trust and give you their business.

The first step in responding to reviews (true or false) is being aware that they are being posted. There are many tools available, such as LocalCast, that can help you monitor review sites so you never miss a chance to converse with a customer.

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The post When to Remove Reviews appeared first on LocalVox.

A great business idea combined with an outstanding franchise model carries no weight if potential owners never buy in. For franchisors, attracting potential franchisees is at the core of business success.

When you've invested excess funds into paid advertising without generating solid leads, it may be time to change things up.

Here are just a few ways that a franchise public relations strategy can work for you:

  • Add credibility: Having a third party endorse your brand generates credibility for your franchise and its business model. A franchise that is regularly represented in media outlets, such as in national trade or local publications, conveys the message that it is well-established. This is particularly helpful when entrepreneurs look for opportunities to own their own business. Seeing consistent news coverage will make a potential buyer feel more confident.
  • Increase awareness: You cannot generate sales leads without getting the word out there. A well-thought-out public relations plan can ensure your franchise gains the attention it deserves from customers and potential franchisees. PR pros know how to target specific audiences and "sell" your franchise model without having to use billboards and magazine advertisements. We leverage your unique selling points to gain media attention, organize discovery days and road shows, and increase audience engagement.
  • Maintain reputation: Every aspect of your franchise public relations strategy, from press releases to social media, should work together to build a positive reputation for your business in the industry. A PR team is well-versed in reputation management, including knowing how to develop a crisis plan for when things take an unexpected turn. With a strategy put into place, your brand's reputation can remain consistent.

For companies that want to take their franchise to new heights, there are agency professionals like us at Ripley PR. We know how to leverage your unique business model to get your name out there and generate sales leads. We've been in franchise sales meetings. We understand franchise marketing. And we truly "get" your business. Contact us today to start working on a plan to take your company to the next level.

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]

Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes opened in August 2012 in the heart of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Since opening, this shoe store has become the go-to shoe store local families because of the major brands stocked, shoe sizes and styles for infants to tweens, as well as extremely knowledgeable staff. There is nothing run-of-the-mill about Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes and the customer service is reminiscent of an era when a customer would visit a store inquiring what shoe was best for him/her and leave with the employee's recommendation in hand.

Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes entered a competitive market, due to the rise of large online retailers and discount chains that can undercut local businesses; this competition was compounded by the fact that New York City has a population as diverse as the stores that cater to each audience.

Breaking Into the MarketAs a new business, Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes struggled to gain exposure in the bustling metropolis of Brooklyn, with many niche stores popping up to service the rapidly-changing neighborhood. Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes had a weak web presence, with only Facebook and Tumblr pages. The shoe store's main source of new business came from word of mouth, and in this competitive market, this strategy wasn't cutting it.

After a friend recommended LocalVox to the owner, Anthony Fauci, Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes revamped its entire marketing mindset. Instead of focusing on in-person word of mouth, they focused on growing business online. In addition to upping their rank on Google, they also built out their social media presence/reputation and increase the number of contacts on their email list.

Local Online Marketing With the Click of a Button

Fauci chose LocalCast because out of all the platforms he reviewed, LocalCast was the easiest -- in fact, as simple as a click of a button. With LocalCast, Running Wild Kid Shoes was soon growing business online by publishing news and deals to hundreds of local touch points and updating their social media, directories and email lists from one central platform.

Fauci quickly noticed an up-tick in new customers and when he inquired about where they heard about Running Wild Kid Shoes, the response was always the same: on Google or another online network.

Running Wild Kid Shoes owner, Anthony Fauci explained how LocalVox helped grow business online.Anthony Fauci

"If you are willing to participate fully in [LocalCast] I do not know of or can think of any better product. We are #1 on Google and it does not get any better than that. LocalVox has shown they are committed to helping my business grow. I would recommend them because they act as more of a partner than a provider."

Driving Revenue by Messaging Customers Across the Web

Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes now regularly messages current and potential customers online:

  • 4,600+ local customers engage with their content
  • 700+ reads on their first few posts (vs. 200 for the average local business website)
  • 375+ customers keep in touch with email and social media
  • 5 stars on Yelp

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From Zero to Hero in Organic SEO

The quickest improvement Runnin' Wild Kids Shoes experienced was a sharp spike in web activity and local search results on Google, Google Maps and leading local directories.

Running Wild Sharp Spike

The shoe store began ranking for key terms to drive new local customers to their store and continue to have 19 terms listing in the top three on Google.

Top 3

You Can Grow Business Online

Not everybody has the time to becoming an online marketing expert, especially when you are running a business, and LocalVox built our online marketing software to meet these constraints. LocalVox enables businesses to dominate on search and bring new customers in the door with a simple, effective and affordable online marketing platform.

To learn more about how LocalVox can help you grow business online, please contact us. We look forward to learning more about your challenges and creating a search engine optimization strategy that allows you to meet your goals.

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


1. Getting People to Buy Your Stuff

I want to inspire you. So, I tell you about a great thing:

"Here's a great thing for you."

What I left unsaid but was heard, by you, is:

"Yeah, it would be a great thing for me, if you bought my stuff."

And, then I go on to say to you:

"I have excellent instructions about how you can achieve this great thing."

You respond with:

"Yeah, it is a great thing."

But don't do anything. Because you have also said to yourself something like:

"Looks like a lot of work."

So, I need to hear what you didn't say. I need to have a reply. Something like:

"Because doing this great thing will produce these wonderful benefits that you have always wanted. And it's easy."

And, I want you to say in return:

"Ok, let me see at your instructions."

Anything else is a failure. I did not inspire you.


2. Getting People to Click on Your Headlines

How can we inspire our readers to click on our headlines?

Let's look at an real example.

Last week when I was researching for my article, "And, What Do You Do?", I searched using this keyword phrase "how to improve about us pages".

The top article listed for this keyword phrase is Jeff Hayden's article which is called "8 Ways to Improve Your 'About Us' Page". (By the way, you should read Jeff's articles carefully. He is excellent at making the complex clear.)

But, Hayden's article also appeared in the 8th spot.

Here is picture of the two entries which were returned from search, the search engine results page or SERP, when I searched for "how to about us pages."

Which one would you click on? Headline 1 or Headline 2?

Headline 1.

About Us LinkedIn.png

Headline 2.

Inc About Us.png

Ok, both have the same headline in bold. But, the description of the benefits to the reader are very different.

Headline 1 gives a plausible reason to why I should care. Because "chances are, [your about us page] is one of the most visited pages on your website. It's also probably the weakest."

Most visited and the weakest? Got it. Ok, I want to know why & I am going to click.

Headline 2 offers the reader no such incentive. It is true, interesting, but why should I care? Feh, big deal. Move on, nothing to read here.


3. Geeky Stuff About Open Graph Mark-Up & Meta Tags

Figuring out how to get the description of your article to show up is an interesting exercise.

Let's take a look at the underlying html for Jeff's article.

(You will have to blow this image up to its full view by clicking on it to read it.)

View Source Inc.png

Ok, when Jeff's article was shared into a LinkedIn group, LinkedIn looked at these two lines of meta description.

1. <meta property="og:title" content="8 Ways to Improve Your 'About Us' Page" />


2. <meta property="og:description" content="Chances are, it's one of the most-visited pages on your site. It's probably also the weakest. Here's how to fix it." />

This tells the LinkedIn bot to describe the article with themeta property "og:description". And that is good, because the description makes the headline more clickable. Good LinkedIn bot. But not great, because the title is repeated again before the description of what benefits reading the article have.

On the other hand, the Google bot ignored these mark-up instructions and returned the first line from Jeff's article as a description. Bad Google bot. And that is bad, because the first line offers no incentive to read the article.

This is not what Jeff had in mind. Naughty, Google bot.

How do we know what Jeff had in mind? Look at his article:

2nd Headline.png

Jeff clearly understand the function of the second headline -- in this case, to inspire us to move down the page and read his instructions. About a great thing.


4. Franchise-Info's Implementation of this Great Thing - An Extra Headline

We don't expect you to hand code your Franchise Directory page or entry. Or become SEO experts, or anything difficult like that.

You just want your headline that people saw on LinkedIn to be clicked more, so your article is read more often. (If they aren't reading you, they won't do business with you.)

Do you want us do to that for you?

More about Rich Snippets, and much more. Take a look ... click here ...

If you liked this idea, 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 good news in PR during the '90s? Clients on magazine covers, Wall Street Journal columns, 900 word stories in their major dailies. The bad news? Lots of mistakes, lots of jockying for space, bad photos appearing, misquotes.

2015-Content Management. I'm liking this better. Here's what we can do now and make sure it's seen by thousands of people. With photos, graphics and artwork.

WINDOW GENIE CLEANS HOUSE IN 2014

National Brand Partnerships, Technology Enhancements, Franchisee Growth Planned for 2015

(Cincinnati, Ohio)---If 2014 was any indication, Americans are appreciating home cleaning services the likes of which Window Genie provides more than ever. The 21 franchise locations opened throughout the year--with three additional locations pending an early 2015 opening--are proof enough of the growing demand for the mobile cleaning service famous for window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. Now, heading into 2015, the company that celebrated its 20th year in business in 2014 is gearing up for even greater growth, spurred in large part by the multiple programs and partnerships set to take off in the year.

Beyond franchisee growth in 2014, Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year. Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as the 13th fastest-growing business 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. In addition, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 195th on its annual Franchise 500 list, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises.

In 2015, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans to benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle. "We'll do this both through new partnerships we've founded with a number of national brands, including Yelp and Home Advisor, as well as by enhancing our technology." Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2015, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2015, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. In the last three years, 60 franchisees have joined the Window Genie system. Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2015 in the East and West coasts and throughout Florida.

###

About Window Genie

Founded in 1994 by Richard Nonelle, Cincinnati-based 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 140 units in 28 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.

And, What Do You Do?

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The Problem with Elevator Pitches

When people ask "What do you do?" they're just making polite conversation. With rare exceptions, they don't really care.

Tim David, Improving Your Elevator Pitch.

You care to let people who visit your website what you can do for them.

But, do you care if some of those people are really interested in what you do? Interested enough to buy from you?

(Or do you have too many good high-paying clients already to bother worrying about your website, or online business directory listing?)

First, let's think about how you get people you meet in person to care about what you do. Because that is not easy, is it?

Second, we can change that dialogue into something just for print on your website or online business directory listing.

It's your job with your first response to shake them out of the polite convention.

How to Make People Care What You Do

Tim David, whose fine article on elevators pitches I just quoted, has a good 4 solution to making people care. (Read the whole article, you will enjoy it.)

Here is my summary of his solution:

1. Respond with a surprise. Here is how he answers the question, "What do you do?"

You mean, in addition to be being an international body building champion?

Tim is 5'10", weighs 135 lbs and when he steps on ants, "they live". It is obvious that Tim is angling for a laugh - or a real connection. And he gets it.

2. Now that you have their attention, maintain their interest in the original question. Get them to agree with your both problem formulation and offer a potential solution.

3. When the timing is right, and you hear in the conversation something like "How do you do that?" & give them a results based story. Something you have just done for someone just like them.

4. Finally, ask for the meeting.

How does this help us with our website or online business directory?

With a modern online business directory listing, or your own website which you can edit, you could produce a similar effect to Tim's in person dialogue. But, you would have to give up on having your 'About Us' page read like a static big yellow page ad.

Break your single 'About Us' page into 4 'Smart About Us' pages, and lead the reader from one page to another with next buttons.

Surprising Opening.png

Now, each vistor that goes to your website & visits your 'About Us' pages will click through your 'About Us' pages by pressing a "Next" button.

Each time that visitor presses "Next", to learn more, the closer they are to being your next client -someone whose next step is to ask for the meeting.

There's more .... 'Smart About Us Pages'

If you liked this idea, 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]

Achieving strong brand equity takes time, maintenance, and a targeted strategy. When looking to enhance your brand's value, developing a B2B public relations strategy can prove beneficial. A PR campaign can increase visibility for your brand, and help to establish a consistent presence for your products and services.

Although the return on investment may not be immediate, your company will see benefits that will positively impact your brand for the long haul.

So what exactly can PR do for your brand?

  • Build brand trust: Open and transparent communication with your audience builds a foundation of trust for your brand. Your audience will garner confidence in your business and its employees when you engage them on multiple platforms, including through press releases, published articles, and social media. A business that is true to itself while connecting with its audience on an emotional level is likely to cultivate greater loyalty among consumers.
  • Establish brand resiliency: Managing the risks associated with your brand is crucial to maintaining a solid reputation with consumers. A public relations professional has the know-how to defend your brand when it is attacked on social media or experiences an unexpected crisis. With a comprehensive PR strategy, your business can build its credibility, mitigate risk, and ultimately establish brand resilience.
  • Create brand recognition: You want your brand, whether big or small, to be known. Public relations targets demographics, engages potential customers, and establishes your business and its executives as industry experts. A PR campaign can make you stand out from competitors by ensuring that your comapny is consistently receiving earned media coverage in outlets that make sense for your brand.

At Ripley PR, we know how to create a PR strategy that is customized to your specific business needs. Whether you're looking to rebrand or simply increase awareness, we can develop a comprehensive plan to get your business the recognition it deserves while generating solid leads.

If you're entering 2015 with the decision to develop a public relations strategy, you may be stuck wondering who exactly you want in charge of execution.

When it's time to outsource your public relations efforts, be sure to choose a PR agency that is right for your business. If you are devoting company resources to hiring an agency, you want to ensure they understand your business goals and make a solid contribution to overall profitability.

Here are a few questions to ask before committing:

1. What experience is under the agency's belt?

You will want to pay attention to media coverage the agency has earned for its clients. Don't be afraid to ask for national media samples and client references before you take the leap. When looking at a PR agency's experience, also be sure to note the industries it has worked with. Do they have contacts within your industry? Do they understand the technical aspects of what you do? This is especially important in B2B public relations, as the supply chains and manufacturing processes are often technical in nature.

2. Does the agency promote itself?

An agency should be devoting time to promoting its own services in the same manner you expect it to promote your business. If you are interested in bylined articles, look to see if an agency team member is regularly published in media outlets. Does the agency blog look like a ghost town, or is it consistently distributing content for readers?

3. Do they have ideas?

When you talk to a representative from the agency, is he or she making suggestions for innovative PR solutions? You want to choose an agency that will come to you with solid ideas when you feel stuck. You shouldn't hire an agency to simply complete small tasks as you assign them, but rather, to be a strategic partner who offers consistent expertise. After all, that is why you are hiring a professional.

4. Do you like the agency?

References, experience, technology, expertise - all of these things are vital when choosing a PR agency to promote your business. However, you can't downplay the importance of picking an agency that you actually like. Choose an agency that aligns with your company culture and hires people who you enjoy working with. To make the most of your public relations strategies, you will want to maintain a constant and consistent flow of communication. This is easier when you find that you can build a strong working relationship with the professionals handling your brand.

Hire an agency that is persistent and determined to garner coverage for your business and its executives. A PR agency should work as a strategic partner, committed to the success of your brand. If it is time to start talking to PR agencies, contact Ripley PR to find out how we can assist you in reaching company goals for 2015.

Dec. 3, 2014 - HALIFAX, Canada -- Progress magazine ranked Wired Flare Inc. No. 3 on its list of 2014 Fast Growing Companies in Atlantic Canada. The list is now in its 15th year, and every year it is a highly anticipated ranking of Atlantic Canadian companies that have seen the most significant revenue increases over the past three years. According to Progress, these companies are setting the pace for the new economy, not only in Atlantic Canada but across the country.

"We're so proud to be included as one of the 2014 Fastest Growing Companies in Atlantic Canada," says Frances Leary, President and CEO of Wired Flare Inc. "This ranking is a celebration of our growth and the growth of so many other Atlantic Canadian businesses. We've worked hard to get here over the past three years, and I can say without a doubt that this is just the beginning. We plan to keep growing for years to come."

Wired Flare Inc. is a Halifax-based online communications company that specializes in "telling stories that ignite inspiring and meaningful conversations online." The team of online marketing specialists, social media experts, storytellers, and filmmakers works with franchises and organizations throughout Canada and the United States to leverage the power of the Internet and help their clients grow.

The 2014 Fastest Growing companies were announced at a reception in Moncton on November 25 and featured in the November issue of Progress magazine. Total revenue growth for this year's 40 Fastest Growing Companies ranges between 25% and %4,848%, with a median growth rate of 201%. Fourteen of the companies boast annual sales of more than $25 million while 26 report less than $25 million in sales. Almost all of the companies anticipate increased employment, revenues and profitability in 2015.

"These Fastest Growing Companies come from a wide array of sectors, and the ones reporting the most rapid growth are in innovation, IT, aerospace and defense, ocean technology, and hospitality," says Progress Publisher Neville Gilfoy. "Even companies that are experiencing 40% growth are showing us that a spike in sales is possible, even in challenging markets. A combination of innovation, talented people, marketing, and new product and export development are key factors, of course."

According to sponsor Phil Clarke of PricewaterhouseCoopers, "These are the Atlantic companies who know what it means to experience tremendous growth, and it's not just growth, but growth in challenging economic times that set these companies apart."

You can read more about these exciting and innovative companies in the November issue of Progress magazine: http://www.progressmedia.ca.

Learn more about Wired Flare Inc. by visiting their website: http://www.wiredflare.com.

Media Contact

Wired Flare Inc.

902-407-2699

***@wiredflare.com

Are you making lasting connections with potential customers? For B2B companies, connecting with C-level executives at different businesses is vital to generate leads.

But are those executives actually reading the content you produce?

A recent study by The Economist of brand marketers and their B2B audiences highlights the growing divide between company executives and the marketers handling their brands. The survey cites that 93% of marketers will maintain or increase their current content marketing efforts in the New Year, but they may be missing the mark on your brand's overall goals.

With the primary purpose of producing content for most marketers being to increase sales, many unsatisfied execs feel that their efforts come across as self-serving.

The main citied reason for content not making a lasting impression on business leaders is that it seemed like more of a sales pitch rather than compelling information. With 75% of executives researching content to find new business ideas, developing informational pieces that shed light on a particular subject matter would prove more valuable.

This disconnect may be a sure sign that some of your marketing dollars need to be allocated to other areas, such as public relations.

In B2B public relations, there are many different ways a comprehensive PR strategy can assist your business. The study shows that 86% of businesses prefer classic text content over emerging forms, and, even while using solely text, the possibilities to showcase your company's expertise are endless.

A PR team can develop a plan that includes creating white papers, developing blog posts, distributing informative press releases, introducing you as a speaker or attendee to an industry event, or writing bylined articles for a well-established publication.

If you aren't seeing a solid return on your investment from current marketing initiatives, now is the time to try new methods. At Ripley PR, we stay up-to-date with industry news to ensure your brand's content is timely and relevant. Our job is to establish you and your business as reputable experts in your field, and create a desire for the valuable information you publish.

At Ripley PR, we encourage our audience to enhance their B2B public relations and marketing strategies by producing relevant content through blogging.

But creating great content is simply one piece of the puzzle.

Waiting for someone to stumble across your webpage?

To maximize audience reach, try repurposing your blog posts in new informational forms.

Neil Patel's blog Quicksprout recently featured a series of posts dedicated to building your blog's audience. Here are our takeaways from his discussion on different ways to repurpose text content:

1. Create a white paper. Creating a compelling white paper can be a powerful tool for establishing yourself as an industry expert. Remember to keep your white paper informational rather than promotional, and provide educational insight that will prove valuable for your audience. Hire a designer to create a PDF format for your text, and use what once was a blog post to reach a new audience with a more formal feel.

2. Design an infographic. Turn the text from your blog and the statistics from your white paper into an easy-to-read infographic. For those of your audience who value more visual representations of data, highlighting your expertise through an infographic can take your content to the next level. Develop a rough sketch, partner with a designer to create the document, and be sure to take the necessary steps to promote your infographic.

3. Turn your infographic into a video. Online videos are growing in popularity and turning your infographic into an interactive sequence can create an all new experience for your audience. Repurposing flat, visual content into a moving narrative is a more effective tool for telling your brand's story, and your audience will appreciate the dynamic medium.

4. Give that video a voice and host a webinar. Many businesses encourage and often require their employees to listen to webinars. To begin the process of hosting, you will first need to turn your blog post into a slideshow with a script you can follow. Next, set up the webinar with your provider, such as GoToWebinar. To ensure maximized attendance, promote the event across all channels including social media and newsletters.

How do you make sure your content gets the exposure it deserves? Traditional text content is great, but sometimes it takes branching out to reach all of your desired audience, no matter their preferred medium. If you want to learn more about how cross-promotion, repurposing, and distribution can maximize your content, contact us today.

In B2B public relations and marketing efforts, creating valuable and compelling content is a key driver of success. You may know how to produce relevant content for your business, but are you producing it with an overall strategy in mind?  A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that most B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy, but only 35% have it documented.

Following a well-defined strategy allows everyone contributing content to be on the same page. When you don't have a documented content marketing strategy for your company, the room for errors grows exponentially.

An article published by PR Daily discussed common mistakes that businesses make when developing content marketing strategies, and we've outlined a few here. Are these mistakes haunting your strategy and halting effective results?

  1. Undefined goals. The content you produced needs to have purpose. Writing out specific goals you wish to achieve by developing content will boost results and drive strategy advancement. Know why you are creating content and exactly how you want it to impact your business.
  1. Not revealing enough. Don't be afraid to share more than just on-the-surface, corporate information with your readers. Humanizing your brand will establish a brand personality, and your audience will appreciate the transparency.
  1. Creating content in silos. Creating content that is supported across departments within your organization increases engagement. Not only does it bring together professionals from all areas of your company, it also allows readers to view your brand as an expert in multiple business functions within your industry.
  1. Inconsistency. We can't stress enough how important consistency is in content creation. To establish yourself as an industry expert, posting and publishing content needs to be a priority and clearly defined within your strategy. Your audience should know when to expect content and where they can access it on a regular basis.

A well-defined and documented strategy will ensure your content marketing efforts are producing solid results for your business. If your strategy is documented, don't allow these mistakes to hold it back. At Ripley PR, we understand what it takes to develop a content marketing strategy that will establish your brand as an industry expert and, in turn, generate leads. If you need help revamping your strategy and creating consistent content for your audience, contact our team today.

Ad agency review time is always an adventure and a great deal of fun. It happens at most companies at 18 month intervals and sometimes the incumbent agency retains the account and sometimes not.

The decision to change ad agencies has less to do with agency competency and more to do with investor sentiment, franchisee rancor and leadership personalities. You gotta blame somebody for marketing and operational failures and why not the ad agency?

The big win is...get a new agency.

Ad Agency review is an invigorating diversion for the executive leadership team not to mention all the beneficial and reckless wining and dining. And I'm talking the best Cabernets and Kobe or Wagu Beef you'd could never afford.  (How does that Ad Agency afford it?)

What you hear at pitch time is very predictable in terms of creative, media buying, local store marketing - LSM and the ever popular Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+, and all sorts of other exciting ideas!

Ok, you really want to know how will the ad agency make franchise sales happen instantly. Short answer- that they won't.

Sure there will be a change.  But, any change will result in what is known as the Hawthorne effect - a change with only short term value.

At agency pitch time you'll hear the CEO, CMO or CDO ask how can you help us with new franchise recruitment?

You will get this answer. "We can do that in spades with all our resources in copywriting, competitive intelligence, targeting and breakthrough marketing it's just not a problem."

Well it is a problem.

After the ad agency agreement is executed and they start by changing your logo, re-describe your brand, redo your menus, make new product recommendations, put together a Facebook contest, get you a gazillion Twitter followers and re-write your consumer facing marketing scripts they will after about 3 months get on with new franchisee lead generation.

New franchisee recruitment recommendations by the ad agency will range from a complete overhaul of your website, new brochures and collateral material, trade show trinkets, increase your web portal spend, work on your SEO and add call this 800 number or visit this website to buy a franchise to your napkins, bags & table toppers.

You will waste the next 18 months buying the ad agency franchisee recruitment malarkey. But you shouldn't since they will bedazzle you with what they are doing for the brand and beg you to wait for the stuff they've done to gain traction.

The next 18 months will expire and it will be time for c-level leadership to decide who'll pitch next, and which agencies will wine and dine the best.

And for those charged with recruiting new franchisees they will be left holding the bag and try to keep their job since as fate would have it they are on an 18 month timeframe career path as well.

Franchise sales problems are solved by better sales processes and specialized marketing that ad agencies are typically ill-equipped to provide.

When you need your franchise sales process to just work better, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk franchise sales.

"We can write our own press releases. Why would we pay someone to do it?"

At Ripley PR, we understand why this question is asked, especially with many C-level executives and business owners trying to watch their bottom line.

Here's why you should rethink your strategy and have a public relations professional not only write your press releases, but to speak with the media on your company's behalf.

  • Best Practice: The same spelling and grammar rules that you learned from your English teacher in grade school do not usually apply in the media spectrum. A PR pro knows to use best practices for journalistic writing, which means writing within The Associated Press Stylebook guidelines and producing original content. Reusing (or recycling) existing releases can hurt your credibility, rather than help, and not using "journalism grammar" rules can be the sole reason your release doesn't get coverage.
  • Consistency: Public Relations should be viewed as an investment. It's not an effort that will give you results overnight, but with dedication it can be extremely beneficial for developing leads and credibility in your industry. That dedication to garnering "earned media coverage", requires consistency. A public relations agency has the ability to continuously produce content for your company and the expertise on the best ways to pitch it to the media.
  • Relationships: A significant part of a public relations professional's job is to build relationships with key influencers in your market and industry, in order to leverage better coverage for your company. We take the time to nurture those relationships and build authority through content that is relevant and follows best practice.
  • Tools: Most importantly we have the tools to do everything that is needed for great and relevant coverage, plus we are experts in it. We know what it takes to get the best possible coverage for your company in the media.

You can take your public relations efforts a step further by finding an agency that specializes in your industry. This increases your chances of valuable media coverage because the agency professionals know your industry, understand your business challenges and have already developed relationships with key trade media players in your industry.

Are you ready to make the investment in public relations? Ripley PR specializes in B2B public relations and has the experience and knowledge to help secure media coverage that will result in increased lead generation for your growing business.

What to write, what to write, what to write. Think, think, think. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

We've all been there. Complete brain freeze.

The only problem? You need, need, need to get this blog article out. You've already pushed it to the last minute, and you're down to the wire. It simply can't wait.

So you're in a predicament. What do you do?

Truth be told, we often find ourselves in this predicament, and when we're in it, these are some of the things we do...hopefully they can be a starting place for you, too.

Tell a success story - Think of moments big or small that have happened in your business recently that can be a celebration. Did a client give you a pat on the back? Can you give an employee a pat on the back? Did you achieve a new benchmark? Successes come in big and small packages, and your audience always wants to share in them. So let them.

Turn a frustration into a teachable moment - Has something frustrated you recently in your business? Why? How can you use that frustration to educate your audience about your business?

Repurpose a presentation - Look through old presentations you've given. Choose one and put the highlights together in a blog post. It can be bullet points and very high-level. You don't need to give it all away. Just an overview will do.

Make it personal - Share your story. Talk about you. After all, people do business with people, not businesses. Whether you write about yourself or your boss or your employee, give an inside glimpse into who you, the people behind the business, really are.

Spread the love - A.K.A. Delegate - Not every blog has to come from you. Ask employees to contribute their stories. This gives your audience even more insights into who you are as a company. Plus, it keeps content and writing styles fresh and new.

Invite a guest - Ask someone you respect from another business that somehow compliments yours to contribute a blog. This will benefit them because it will give their business added exposure and boost their credibility. It will benefit you because you're showing your audience a larger spectrum of content that is beneficial to them. It's a win-win, and you didn't have to write anything. The only downside? You typically have to plan this one a bit in advance.

Ask your audience - Seriously, ask them a question. What's something you want to know. Start a conversation. Create a poll or a survey. Make it fun or make it market research or both.

Make a Top 10 list - Top 10 menu items, top 10 dress styles, top 10 favorite performers, top 10 learning tips, top 10 blogging tips J.... Think of 10 things your audience should know about and put them in a list.

Write a How-To - You know you're the expert at what you do. You have knowledge that your audience needs, so share it. Tell them how to do one thing they need to know how to do. Just one thing. Save the next thing for another blog.

If you still need help with your content marketing and blogging, connect with me on LinkedIn using the business card below and let's talk.

I was raised by a very tough man.  He never praised us for doing things well. That was expected of us.  However, if we did something wrong, oh we heard about that ASAP!

So I grew up and became an employer and wondered why I was so sensitive to criticism; and while I hand out lots of praise (I am sure I wanted to give what I didn't get), I let people know when something was wrong.  I started out approaching things from what's wrong instead of what's right.  I learned to try very hard to do the opposite when I saw reactions from younger people.  I also noticed that I felt the same way about clients.  Many clients never let you know what you have done that's been great and what you've done that has really worked for them.  Too much leverage? Worried we'll raise our fees?   

Cut to being in the PR business for 32 years.  I have had lots of employees and lots of clients.  Firstly, an employee's favorite word is "respect".  I never really understood the exact meaning of that. I always was taught that you respect your elders, those who have been through life's hard knocks already.  I give respect to those who give it to me. If a 24 year old speaks to me in a certain manner, they are gone, baby gone.

Having said all this I can't tell you what it means to get an email from a client who says, "Thanks Samantha and everyone at SandersonPR for what you do for us every day".  What??  

No, thank YOU Chuck Schwalbe, Marketing Maven from Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shops for being a prince to work with.  Other clients who only show us what your competitors just got in the news? Umm, focus on your own companies, franchisees, employees and vendors and you'll end up successful enough to be in the news too!   

On another note, when is praise too necessary?  I saw a Facebook post today about being patient with kids on Halloween. "Don't be upset if a child takes too long to choose, maybe he has a focus issue, don't tell a child they took two pieces and that it's wrong, maybe he has a need to be special."

WHAT?  How about, "Don't rescue your kids from every possible obstacle that gets in their way because there are a lot more where that Halloween one came from!"

Constant coddling, praise and "motivation" is what I am always seeing in "how to motivate your employees" type articles. Guess what? I was motivated because Mom and Dad were not paying any of my bills. Try that for motivation.  Also, teach your kids that they need to respect and listen to what their employers say, or go get a paycheck somewhere else.  Life IS hard work and unless you are an heiress, get used to it and go into a job giving all you can and proving yourself, not acting like you need to be motivated to do anything.

Just a little advice. 

As a franchisor, of course you want to have a brand that is well-recognized and well-respected in the marketplace. Sometimes, however, things are going on behind the scenes that you may not even know about...and they may be causing your online brand damage.

Answer these 10 questions to determine whether your franchise brand is in good shape online or if your franchise needs some help to get its online brand management on track.

Franchise_Online_Brand_Management_Infographic-468x1024.jpg

For each "no", deduct 10%.

If you got 70% or less, your brand needs help. Connect with me and let's talk about how Wired Flare can 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]

Connecting potential customers with your brand is key to driving the success of your business. Humanizing a brand can establish trust and create commonality between a business entity and its customers. So how can you be relatable as a company? How can you genuinely convey to your customers that you understand?

Start by telling your story.

With the emerging concept of brand journalism, storytelling is more relevant now than ever before in marketing and B2B public relations efforts.  The tradition of storytelling is often rooted in history, and telling your brand's story is no different. Revealing history can establish a brand personality and invite your audience to share in the business journey of your company.

How yesterday became today matters, and telling that story shows your drive for success and growth as a company. When you share where your company came from, the challenges along the way, as well as the successes, you create a spirit of authenticity for your brand. Your story becomes honest and engaging, which cultivates trust and leaves customers coming back for more.

How can you share pieces of your company's history with your audience? Here are three ways to easily connect customers to your history:

1. Share on social media. We've all seen an Instagram or Twitter Throwback Thursday post from a friend. Reminiscing is not just for baby pictures and high school prom photos. Your company can join in on the trend. Posting a #tbt, as it is known on social media, can give customers relatable insight into your business. You can post a picture of a former office building, your first logo draft, or group shots from previous years' holiday parties. Don't forget to add #tbt and tag anyone included in the post to boost engagement.
2. Write a blog. A throwback picture can easily be turned into a blog post. The great thing about posting a story of company history is that it is not in your face or promotional. Your audience can read the blog as they would any story without realizing the author is a business entity. Make it a genuine narrative providing understanding into your brand's past.
3. Involve your audience. When you tell a story about the past, ask your audience to do the same. If you post about your CEO's first job, leave your audience with the question, "What was your first job?" Do they have a memory of your business from years past? Ask them to share with a comment or picture. Engaging your audience by asking questions evokes emotion and, again, humanizes your brand.

Nostalgia is warm and inviting. If your business has thrived throughout the years, let your customers know. A business with history means a business with success. If you know you need to connect with your customers more effectively, but don't know where to start, Ripley PR can help. We have experts on hand who can develop social media strategies and create blog content so that your story can be heard.

Any great business idea is just that without proper execution. If word fails to spread, idle progression, slow growth, and reversion can plague any business model, including franchises. Implementing a company's vision requires a certain flare that tends to ignore bashfulness and goes straight for glory in order to get the message out in the open. One surefire way to extinguish any slow growth is to carry out a well-established franchise public relations plan.

While the franchise model as a whole is an excellent business idea for growth, it isn't without its failures. Just two years ago, the Small Business Administration reported it repurchased 3.4 percent of franchise loans that could no longer maintain their loan payments. This could be a result of numerous factors but the simple truth is, these businesses failed to gain new franchise leads. Ensuring your franchise model actually captivates potential owners should be conducted in a different manner than say appealing to consumers because at the end of the day, even though consumers maintain revenue, it's entrepreneurs that build growth.

What PR does for a franchise is take the company's model and markets it to business people the way they want to take in information.  Prospective franchisees are savvy beyond belief and not just any advertisement will capture their attention enough to buy in. They yearn for third party endorsements from seasoned advisors and experts such as dedicated business analysts and journalists - people who specialist agencies such as Ripley PR know how to reach. By securing these endorsements, entrepreneurs who engage with specialized publications become aware and intrigued by a franchise model and begin to research on their own.

This is where PR can benefit a franchise even more. Public relations professionals are expertly trained in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and will create a strategy to make sure your company comes up first and foremost in any search engine. The modern world is driven by the internet and social media and having a presence is paramount for business success. This is something PR can do for your franchise and it does it with specialized language that specifically appeals to the people that matter most - leads.

For many franchisors, juggling a million things at once is not uncommon and conducting a well-planned PR plan is often times simply too much to handle. For these companies, there are agency professionals like us at Ripley PR. What separates us from the rest is how we mix our varied experiences into one concentrated focus to benefit your unique business. If your franchise development is struggling, contact us to find how our specialized PR plans can get your name out there to the right people.

Content management system? Check. Blog design and title? A bunch of words written on a page? Check?

Here at LocalVox we know how daunting running a quality blog for your business can be. But just because it seems overwhelming, that doesn't mean you should give up. The truth is that having and maintaining (don't forget that second part!) a blog is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

Our mission is to help you be successful in all your marketing endeavors, which is why we started our blogging tips series in the first place. But with so much literature on the subject, it can be easy to get lost in all the things you need to do.

So you've taken all the steps to make a good blog, yet your content seems like it's only being read by your grandma and spambots. Well, you're probably making these seven mistakes.

1. You're a Follower, Not a Leader

There are times when it's a good thing to be a follower, like when you're playing a team sport or becoming a synchronized swimmer. But when it comes to your company's blog, copying a popular blog's writing style and topics is a guaranteed way to usher your blog to a quick death. Why should your readers go for the copy when they have an all access pass to the original?

It's easier to be a leader if, from the get go, you occupy a niche space that no one has covered yet. If that's not possible, try using the blue ocean strategy to help differentiate your blog from the others. It's a handy guide for being unique.

2. You're Too Complex

And we don't mean in a misunderstood artist way. Want to hear a secret? Having a complicated and detailed content strategy will not ensure success. Not even the most convoluted plan can predict the twists, turns and drop offs that are all a part of the content roller coaster ride.

Let's call all this planning what it is-fear. And it's eating away at the time that you could be spending by actually creating the content. In the wise words of Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try."

3. Content Is an Afterthought

Behind every amazing local blog is a dedicated person or group of people who care about its performance. In the same manner, behind every crappy blog is a person or group of people who treat it as an afterthought.

There are the telltale signs of an afterthought blog: inconsistent posts, rife with grammar mistakes and topics that are as stale as day old bread. Just making your blog a priority will improve your posts. It will also help if you have difficulty coming up with post ideas. Because you're making the blog a priority, you mind will constantly be churning about possible blog posts. And trust us, the best ideas can come in the weirdest places and the most unexpected times.

4. You're Afraid to Be Dennis Rodman

Now we're not saying that you should dye your hair and start playing basketball in drag. But too many business blogs are so consumed with playing it safe that their blogs are boring to read. The problem? They don't have a unique point of view.

Embrace your and your company's quirks and eccentricities and use them to liven your content. Show your readers what life is like behind the scenes through funny videos (It's also a great way to boost morale at the office). Let them know about your worst failures. It won't tarnish your reputation, instead it will make you look more human and relatable.  At the very least, insert some personal anecdotes into your posts. Not only are they more fun to read, but they help readers remember your content more.

5. You're in It for the Sale

Excuse our French, but people's BS meter go up when they know your blog post is a product or service sales pitch cloaked in a blog post. And when you consider that 571 new websites are created every minute, you really can't waste any time. Create your posts with the goal of providing value for the reader, instead of a sales pitch. There's a reason why content marketing is a long term strategy.

6. You Publish the Same Thing Every Week

Vary the types of content you publish. Mix it up (and save yourself time) by curating posts. For example, if you run a childcare business, you can share lists of weekend events that are tailored to kids. And if you are a plumber, share an article about copper vs pac pipes. Curating posts not only invigorates your blog, but it's an easy non-spammy way to promote someone's article or event. You get new content and their site gets traffic. And in the future they can return the favor.

Another way you can vary your posts is by changing their lengths. If most of your posts are under 500 words, start publishing 1000-2000 word posts once in a while and vice versa. Use bullet points, numbers, and images to break up blocks of text. Include puff posts and researched longform post. Variety is the spice of life and it's also what makes a blog interesting. A simple way to break up the monotony is by hiring a guest writer. Because they're not apart of your content team, they'll bring a fresh perspective.

7. You Don't Build on Existing Content

Don't be afraid to show off your knowledge about a specific topic. When you write about all angles of a subject, you build trust with your reader by positioning yourself as a thought leader. For example, the most popular post on real-estate.com was "3 Trees Never to Plant in Your Backyard". From there they could publish a post titled "Remodeling That Hurts the Value of Your Home" and another post titled "How to Select a Real Estate Broker". Building on existing content is also a very helpful tactic for when you run out of content ideas.

What are other ways to make a local blog better? Let us know in the comments. 

The post 7 Mistakes Preventing Your Local Blog Content from Being Great appeared first on LocalVox.

Often times, many companies consider public relations as a service used only during times of crisis.

Working with the media and managing a company's reputation during an emergency is all part of public relations; however, there is much more to PR than just crisis communications.

In its entirety, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relations between organizations and their publics. Public relations can not only manage a company's reputation during a crisis, it can also help brand and establish a company within an industry and/or geographic location.

At Ripley PR, we work with businesses to not only manage crises, but to develop a strong B2B public relations and marketing strategy that will impact a brand's profitability.

Here are four (4) ways we can use public relations to impact your business:

1. Content Is King
Creating strong content can help a business communicate their services and products more effectively. Content is a vital element of public relations, and it can be used in a variety of platforms, including social media, blogs, press releases, white papers, newsletters, case studies, website, bylined articles, and much more.

Companies that sell a product or service to other companies (B2B) especially need quality content. Buyers of B2B products are looking for a solution to a problem. Unlike business-to-consumer, you're usually marketing to more than one individual, and the sales cycle is much longer. Sometimes the person needing the solution isn't the actual decision maker, but they can sway the purchasing decision. It's important to turn technical, sophisticated jargon into clear messaging that resonates with multiple audiences.

By taking time to develop strong content, it can help customers make informed decisions about a company's services and products.

2. Recognition
The more well known a company's name is, the more influential they are in shaping opinions of their customers. Developing a B2B public relations strategy can help increase a company's presence with mentions in trade magazines, local newspapers, and other industry publications. Also, nominating a company for local and industry awards can also help promote a company's name.

This third-party credibility can help with lead generation and even shorten the sales cycle.

3. Social Media
Social media makes communicating with the public much easier, and taking time to incorporate social media into a public relations strategy is crucial. Utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram can help a business not only engage with their target audience, but can also improve a business' image and overall brand.

4. Improve SEO
When a business incorporates quality writing, secures ongoing editorial coverage and industry recognition, and establishes a strong social media presence with well-written blogs and social updates, it will positively impact a company's SEO. Improving SEO can help with brand recognition, as well as, help increase awareness of products and services too.

Incorporating a public relations strategy into a business will not only improve a company's brand, but it can also impact the bottom line. Taking time to build a positive brand before any negative news or crisis becomes a possibility, will help a company maintain their reputation in the event of a mistake or accident. To learn more about how to incorporate public relations into your businesses or company, contact the experts at Ripley PR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

            Capuanos
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's New in Direct Mail & Franchising?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Build Customer Relationships

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

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

2. Tell Your Brand Story

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

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

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

3. Become An Industry Expert

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

3 Content Marketing Examples

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

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

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

Birchbox - Content marketing drives significant paid subscriptions.

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

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

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

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

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

What's It All Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One- They keep in touch.

Linkedin Notifies them  daily on updates of their 1st connections. 

Here's what Linkedin tells them.

    • Who has a birthday today.
    • Who has a New Job
    • Who has been mentioned in the news.
    • Who has a work anniversary

Savvy Marketers  simply use LinkedIn messages with their own custom message scripts to let their connections know they are thinking of them. 

It takes them less than 10 minutes to send these messages. If you do it the way our marketing partners do it.

Two -  Savvy Marketers are LinkedIn Premium members. 

But they don't overpay for it.

You see we tell our Franchise Info LinkedIn Marketers to sign up for the secret LinkedIn Personal Plus Premium Membership at $7.95 a month.

https://www.linkedin.com/personalplus

They get the LinkedIn Premium Badge on their profile.

With the Personal Plus they get to see everyone who has checked out their profile.

And once or twice a week they look at who fits their criteria for an Invitation to Connect. 

Growing their 1st Connection with people they can do business with.

Now you can do these 2 things yourself to market like our Franchise Info pros do.

Three - Savvy Marketers  marketers use our LinkedIn programs. 

You can too.

Here's Franchise Info's entry level program everyone starts with

90 Day LinkedIn Content Marketing & PR Program

You can sign up and make your LinkedIn marketing really work.

If you have a question on Numbers One, Two or Three shoot me a LinkedIn message or email [email protected]

And if you need More information on Sponsored Updates for LinkedIn, Click Here.

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]

While I'm a complete believer in franchise-wide social media systems, you simply may find that you buy into a franchise without something in place.

That means it's left to you. So, what are you going to do about it?

Well, for starters, you have to commit to just doing it. With or without franchisor support, social media is a place you need to be.

And...it does not have to be as difficult or as time-consuming as you think. Here's a simple 6-step process to get you started.

Step 1: Determine which platforms to use.

You do NOT have to participate on every social network. That would be insanity. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are my customers engaging on this social network?
  2. Are my customers talking about my industry on this social network?
  3. Is my competition here, and are they engaging with their customers here?

If yes to these, you should likely be there. However, take one step at a time. Choose the one where your audience is most engaged with your industry and start there.

Step 2: Setup your social networks.

Get as much for your franchisor as you can, and make sure you have well-branded images that are sized appropriately for the space. Your social channels are a reflection of your franchise. They need to look the part.

Step 3: Create your content strategy.

Consider what type of content will get your audience engaged. You want to inspire them, entertain them, inform them and give them useful content that is beneficial. Your content should be related somehow to your franchise (remember these are not personal posts here). However, you'll want to limit promotional activity and keep it helpful and fun instead. Content to consider includes:

  • Articles (think of blog posts from your corporate website, for example)
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Quick tips
  • Memes (text on top of a photos - http://shareasimage.com is a great tool for these)
  • Quotes
  • Statistics
  • How-to's
  • SlideShare presentations
  • Infographics
  • Testimonials
  • Stories
  • News
  • Jokes (in good taste and industry-related, of course)
  • Cartoons

And there's so much more.

My recommendation is that you choose 1 day a week and you create your content for the upcoming week. That way, instead of sitting there each day beating your head against your desk because you can't think of what to post, at least you'll only need to beat your head one day instead of all 7.     Plus, you get in the creation zone and it takes much less time this way.

Step 4: Distribute your content to social networks.

Remember that different users on different social networks want different things. So, you won't post the exact same content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For example...Choose lots of images, videos, and fun, engaging conversation-starters for Facebook. Quick tips, articles, and multi-media go over well on Twitter. On LinkedIn, post helpful information from articles and other professional resources like SlideShare.

To make the content distribution manageable so that you're not tied your computer to post content all the time, use a tool like http://www.hootsuite.com to schedule your content in advance. It's a huge time-saver.

Step 5: Provide customer service.

Make sure that your notifications are set to send you emails if someone mentions you or comments on your page or post. Then make sure to respond in a timely manner. This is essential.

Step 6: Engage with your audience.

Social media is not a "set it and forget it" type of thing. Every day you need to log on and pro-actively engage with your audience.

Take a look at what your network is talking about, and talk back. Retweet some posts that your supporters have made. Like some other companies' Facebook posts. Answer a question in LinkedIn. You have to be present in order for it to be meaningful.

However, you don't have to be present all day long. Set a timer. Really. Log on, engage for 5-10 minutes, and log off. Save the personal social media chit-chat for off-work hours.

While it may be overwhelming at first, once you get into the groove, you CAN do this! Hopefully your franchisor will jump on board soon. In the meantime, don't wait. Do what you need to do for your business...social media engagement is one of those things.

A recent story about small business marketing had an interesting twist.

"Phones start ringing at the Farmington Hills, Michigan, salon each time co-owner Miranda Jade Plater posts pictures on photo-sharing app Instagram.

Would-be customers call to book appointments or ask questions about hair extensions she posts."

PAYING FOR ATTENTION

To boost Limelight Extensions' followers, Plater pays local models and reality show stars to promote the company on their accounts.

Payment is either a percentage of sales, a flat rate or free hair.

In return, they post photos of themselves wearing the extensions with a link back to Limelight Extensions' Instagram account.

The company has more than 27,000 followers."

Does your spouse tell you "You don't listen" or " You don't pay attention"?  I know my wife does.

"Pay attention" is something I continually say to my young son.  

Our daughter, on the other hand, wants me to pay attention to her.

 

Pay Attention.  Pay for Attention

It got me thinking.  Why do some professionals write interesting articles & upload  them to their website, if nobody is paying attention?

Do they think that by uploading an article with an file transfer protocol program, FTP, they are now "publishers"?  Maybe they do.  I don't know.

Neither you or I would go to a trade show to give a talk, if we knew that there was no one in the audience.  Nobody would be paying attention.  So, we wouldn't bother.

 

Pay Attention. Pay for Attendees.

So if you are writing to get your name out there, why do you bother if you aren't getting the attention you deserve?

Let's face it - the people on Facebook and Twitter don't actually want to read.  They aren't paying attention to articles you write, they are too busy doing something else.  

And, the people who you could do business with are on LinkedIn.  

LinkedIn users like to read.

 

Pay Attention.  Paying for Attention?

If you think about it, attention is a type of currency.  You can pay someone with attention, or you can pay for attention.  

And most of us want more attention, especially for the ideas we have written about.

 

Who is Paying You Attention?

Here is a typical picture of the traffic or readers to a professional's website -(Law Firm's name removed to protect the innocent).

Alexa For Law Firm.png

Now, this isn't so good - not even being the top 1 million of popular websites.  

Nobody is paying attention to this law firm.

Which is really too bad because the firm has some very good articles on franchising.  Thoughtful and topical.

 

So Why Not Pay for Attention, Instead?

If you have spent two or three hours researching, writing & revising your article, that article is worth $750 - $1,000 of your time.  Why not pay an extra $80.00 and get the attention you deserve?

When you want more clients, get Franchise-Info Key Partner Marketing Program before your competitors do!

(Or are you doing so well you don't need more clients? I know I need more clients!)

 

You write content & Franchise-Info distributes your content to our many LinkedIn Readers.

How does that help you?

Well, remember that nobody was paying attention to you on your website?

Now, look at who is looking at our Franchise Info updates last month ending June 22nd, 2014.

Ok, we are seeing between 20,000 to 30,000 impressions daily, between Monday and Friday!

impressions.png

So, when you want more clients, get Franchise-Info Key Partner Marketing Program before your competitors do!

Nearly half of the world's population will be watching as the soccer playing field narrows over the next four weeks, until there is only one world champion left. Whether you're watching or not, the 2014 World Cup definitely offers some interesting perspectives for people working in B2B public relations, marketing, and advertising.

We found this Inc. article interesting. It takes a look at how Puma, a relatively small athletic apparel company competing on the world stage with giants like Nike and Adidas, has used some stealthy marketing moves to draw soccer fans' attention.

Puma has done two things: taken advantage of the opportunity for players to wear whatever brand of cleats they want rather than sticking with Adidas, the official sponsor; and planning to launch an ad campaign after the tournament is over.

FIFA_World_cup_2014-219x300.jpgThe same stealth marketing technique has worked for lots of other former underdog brands. Inc. explains what these companies do that makes the strategy work:

  1. They don't try to be everything to everyone. Puma has a strong connection to the soccer world - its CEO is a former player, and legendary player Pelé wore Puma cleats - so the company narrowed its focus on the industry in an effort to become a leader in that arena.

  2. They stay out of the spotlight. Brands like Puma focus on making their products the go-to choice of the "experts" - that means they build credibility and don't have to rely on flashy advertising for sales.

  3. They stand out from the crowd. Want to get noticed? Do something different from the competition. That's exactly the approach Puma took for the World Cup - instead of offering high-tech performance innovations, they kept the design simple, but made the shoes stand out by making each shoe - not each pair - a different color.

So what's the lesson for B2B companies? In any industry, the principles are essentially the same: focus in on how you can offer the best service or product for your target audience, put an emphasis on quality and credibility, and find something you can do that will stand out from your competition - and your marketing efforts will pay off.

At Ripley PR, we're experts in helping B2B companies focus and define their public relations and marketing efforts, whether they are in healthcare IT, commercial construction, manufacturing, or franchising. Contact us today to see what we can do for your company.

Look at any cookbook.

Find your favorite cake recipe.  Look at the ingredient list.  

Now, If you just bought the best ingredients on the list, could you bake your favorite cake?

No, you would have to follow  a recipe -measuring carefully since you are baking.

 

Writing an effective sales letter is a lot like baking.  You need to follow a recipe.  

Yet, most advice in this area consists of: concentrate on grammar, sentence length and punctuation.  Buy fine ingredients.  

Doesn't work for recipes & won't work for marketing communications.

 

Tom Sant is marvelously different in focusing our attention on selecting 'recipes before ingredients' in his The Language of Success.

"Over the years, I've come to believe that the worst mistakes in business communication have nothing to do with grammar or spelling or sentence complexity."

You can have masterful control over sentence construction and yet fail to communicate.  

"Instead, [mistakes] stem from using the wrong structural pattern, one that is not capable of achieving our purpose."

If we don't follow the correct recipe or format, we will obtain a poor result. This is critical to avoid if we are writing to persuade, convince or educate our clients.

For example, if we deliver flat, accurate, factual content, thinking that the facts alone will persuade our customer to buy, we have profoundly misunderstood the way [human] communication works."

 

Like using any recipe, you have to practice.  

Here is what I have found useful.  Re-write good sales pitches, using your own words. 

 

For example, I have used Sants' recipe for writing Nurture messages to create interest in the Franchise Info Nurture Marketing program, Stay in Touch with Qualified Clients until they are Ready To Buy from You.

It is really the oldest trick in the book.

First, I hand copied Tom's language, and then I rewrote each paragraph until it sounded more like me and less like Tom.  

Copying is critical because you are using those parts of your brain which control writing and speaking.  You are more likely to embed this into your own neural network doing this instead of just skimming  the "good bits".

 

This is Tom's language for selling an attorney on using client lead nurturing program.

The paragraph structure and emphasis is mine. (I expect people to skim more when reading text on a monitor, like you are doing right now.)

"For example, suppose you're an attorney specializing in probate issues with a practice aimed at helping families establish self-directed trusts to preserve their assets.

Why would a client come to you instead of a different attorney? Maybe because you were recommended? Maybe because she met you through some kind of community service work or social activity? Or maybe because you have regularly provided useful information that people appreciate?

Jim Cecil, the guru of nurture marketing, has found that sending out two or three messages doesn't have much impact on business. But by the time you have sent out eight or nine, good things start to happen.

Customers and prospects will have a "top-of-mind" awareness of you and your business after getting that many messages from you, so if they need the kinds of products or services you provide, they think of you first.

Sales will start to soar."

This is terrific language.  And it works.  For any attorney or professional that needs to keep in touch before they sell.

For more on nuturing, you might be interested in Stay in Touch with Qualified Clients until they are Ready To Buy from You.

Once your company is ready to start franchising, then selling franchises becomes one of your biggest goals. In order to do that, you've got to get the word out. There are a number of ways to do so - through traditional advertising, franchising events, and of course, word of mouth.

Have you considered using public relations to generate quality leads and sell franchises? If you pick the right franchise public relations agency to help you promote your company, you will absolutely see the investment pay off.

At Ripley PR, we're experienced at helping franchisors and franchisees tell their stories and get media coverage at both local and national levels, which helps not only each individual location do well in their market, but helps the parent company sell more franchises as well. If you're thinking of hiring a PR agency, it's vital to select one like Ripley PR, which has extensive success getting media coverage in local markets and in national consumer and trade publications.

So how can the right PR agency help your franchise?

For one thing, we'll help you create and tell your story.

It might surprise you to learn that PR is as much about the sale as franchising is - we just work to sell your story to the right media. Did you know that about 60 percent of what you read in the daily newspaper is there thanks to a PR professional?

While you're thinking about attractive franchising offers and following up on potential leads, we're thinking about telling your corporate story, or an individual franchisee's story, in a way that will be attractive to the appropriate reporters. We're also following up with the contacts we've built in the media, especially those who write for your industry.

When you start working with a PR agency, we'll put together a strategy for pitching your story and distributing press releases. We'll ask you questions about your business, people within it, and any interesting tidbits about franchisees. We'll announce new franchise openings, awards and honors individual owners, the whole company, or executives have received, and make it appealing to reporters.

Telling the story the right way goes a long way to helping you generate leads and sell franchises. If you'd like to know more about how Ripley PR can help you do just that, contact us today.

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]

You can't throw a stick without hitting some social media expert who'll tell you to develop original content for your blog. 

And then self-distribute - Tweet, post on Facebook & LinkedIn, etc... 

They shout you can do it yourself and for free.

 

Well they are partly right. 

You do need editorial content for promotional & marketing purposes. 

This is not a new way to market your franchise offering or service. 

We used to call Native Advertising - Advertorials.  

 

Remember the Amish have been doing this kind of marketing successfully for years in newspapers.

 

Amish Guy Shaking Hands Advertorial.png

 

Those crafty Amish with their cool beards and sensational you gotta read headlines. 

 

Amish Guy Slashes Heat Bills.jpeg

I read their articles or I should say advertorials all the time.

And they wouldn't keep running them if they didn't sell!  Would they?

 

Here's what franchise sellers and franchise suppliers should do to sell new franchises and get new clients to buy services.

  • Write content and make sure it's interesting. (If you just write buy my stuff articles no one will care or buy.)

  • Run traditional ads to complement your Native Advertising.

  • Use the top Social Networks to target and distribute.

And on LinkedIn Franchise-Info has a paid placement and distribution program for your articles and ads, which just might work for you.

Small businesses that blog generate 126% more leads than SMB's that don't blog. I'm hoping that alone will convince you to start a blog for your small business.

Companies that blog also have 97% more websites linking to them as well. More links = more traffic, social shares, leads and as a result: more revenue.

how-blogging-for-lead-generation-works.jpgSMB Blogging: Did You Know?

  • Over 60% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post that they read

  • Approximately 70% of consumers learn about a company through their blog rather than through paid advertising

  • 60% of consumers have a positive feeling about a company after reading their blog

Those are some serious stats! It's fairly well documented that if you're a small business and participate in content marketing, you're going to do well.

Just take a look at how many people are searching on Google for content marketing:

content-marketing-search-trend.png

As you can clearly see, content marketing is growing every day. More and more people want to learn how content marketing will improve their business and replace part of their more traditional advertising spend.

One of the best ways for a small business to improve content marketing is to start a blog. You've got a few options when it comes to picking a platform to blog:

Still asking yourself if you should create a blog for your small business?

  • 82% of consumers enjoy reading content from company blogs

  • Over 30% of consumers consider a blog to be the second most influential factor when it comes to making a purchase

  • Businesses that commit to blogging and publish over 51 posts receive a 77% lift in monthly leads.

Content Syndication & Multichannel Marketing

If you want to push your local content marketing to the next level, it comes down to content syndication and marketing through additional channels.

Syndication
You need other people talking about your content. Bloggers republishing your posts, guest blogging in other networks, being found on a top local content publisher like NearSay. These are things that will significantly improve your content marketing plan.

Multichannel Marketing
Content is what powers the value of your channels. Your email list, Facebook updates, tweets, LinkedIn updates and Instagram photos have much more value if they're supported by great content. You need to be telling your stories through multiple channels to reach your customer. Without great content marketing and syndication, this is a difficult task.

What Does It All Mean?

By publishing content online frequently (1-2x per week), you will see significant and measurable results. Without a blog, your small business is not firing on all cylinders.

Have you recently started a small business blog? What kind of results are you seeing?

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 Why Every Small Business Needs To Blog in 2014 appeared first on LocalVox.

Digital advertising has really found its foothold: last year, online ad revenues surpassed television for the first time ever. Marketers are finding it more effective than just about any other form of advertising - but online advertising should come with a word of caution.

Neustar, a real-time provider of cloud-based information services and data analytics, found that companies waste 26 percent of their advertising dollars, by not picking the right outlets or technology for online ads.

What does that mean for you as a B2B marketer? It means identifying the best channels to allocate your advertising dollars and maximize your results.

Neustar says marketers and agencies waste digital dollars in five main ways:

  1. Not identifying which channel will reach the target market: It takes some careful planning and market research to identify the target demographic and the best ways to reach people in that demographic. That way you can plan advertising that actually reaches your customer, not that just gets lost in the ether.

  2. Overlapping ads: To make the most use of your online advertising, you need to identify unique segments of users on each channel to figure out where you'll get the most outreach. Remember, people use multiple websites, even ones that are very similar to one another, so it's important that you're not reaching the same small number of people with every ad.

  3. Too many ads: Like in many other applications, when it comes to advertising, less can be more. Bombarding your market with frequent ads isn't the way to get people to click on them - they're more likely to just get annoyed and ignore them. Monitor your market to determine the best frequency, and then control it for optimum clicks.

  4. Assuming first or last impressions are best: don't assume that the final ad a customer sees is the one that convinces him to make a sale - and only track analytics or that ad. Many marketers still use a last-touch attribution system, but that might not be the best way to go about it.

  5. Not connecting online and offline efforts: Monitoring your marketing efforts across all platforms, digital and non-digital, will help you determine which channels are working - and which ones aren't worth your time or money.

At Ripley PR, we can help you identify the best options for advertising as part of your B2B public relations and marketing strategy. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with lead generation, franchise sales, and more.

If you're reading this blog post, I can already tell you that you're a step (or ten) ahead of your competition. We're living in a world where only half of small businesses have websites. Yes, you read that right!

The other half? They have websites, but they're struggling to make them great. You want to take your SMB website to the next level.

How do you get there? Every great small business website needs the following:

1.) A phone number on every page

You'd be surprised if I told you how many small business websites don't display their phone number on the home page of their website. Hint: It's over 60%!

You've worked hard to bring potential customers to your website, and now you need to make sure it's simple for them to turn into paying customers. Find some free real estate at the top of every page on your website and insert your phone number. Make it easy to read, bold it if you have to.

If you want customers to call you, you'll need to make it simple. Go ahead and add that phone number!

2.) Basic search engine optimization

It's not possible to ignore SEO these days. Nearly half of all website traffic comes from search engines. If you're not optimizing for search, you might as well not have a website.

SEO can be complicated. So we created a blog post that simplifies SEO for small businesses. Read the blog post to find out exactly what you need:

  • Optimized headers and title tags

  • Great content

  • Internal links to content

  • A simple way to measure your results

  • And of course, lots of call to actions

3.) Customer testimonials

Approximately 90% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions. Now there's another statistic you can't ignore!

If you have a great business with happy customers, why not prominently display those on your website? You'll want to create a testimonials page that has the following:

  • Names of those who have left their review

  • Dates of testimonials received

  • Description of product or services that were performed

  • Proper schema.org review markup

4.) A clear map with accompanying directions

If you're a local business, you'll want to make sure it's easy for customers to find your address and get clear directions. Google makes it easy to embed maps on websites, just follow their simple instructions.

Underneath your map embed, you should include simple instructions for getting to your business. You can include driving directions from multiple locations, or if you're in a city with public transportation, include bus/train directions as well.

If you're in a complicated complex or office building, put together some clear instructions for finding your specific location.

5.) A blog with content that helps your customers

Last, but certainly not least is a blog with great content. Your small businesses website has to stand out somehow. If you want to step your game up, past the generic "home, about us, services, contact us" sections, you'll need to add a blog.

Content marketing is rapidly growing because traditional advertising, or "shouting" at your customers is slowly dying.

Identify 10 problems that keep your potential customers up at night. It could be rodents getting into the house, wondering if a fallen tree will be covered by insurance, or wanting to know if their small business website is good enough.

After you've written out your 10 problems, commit to "solving" one problem per week through a blog post. Promote your content on your social networks and to your email list. If you aren't collecting emails, find out how to easily start here for only $5.97.

Any business can create great content. If you're struggling to come up with epic content ideas, tweet at us for some free tips and ideas. We think small business content marketing is so important, we've put together a great presentation on it. Download it today for free!

Do you think we missed anything that a great small business website needs? Let us know in the comments!

The post The 5 Things Every (Great) Small Business Website Needs appeared first on LocalVox.

Like most other industries, public relations has a set of unwritten rules, mostly developed through tradition and experience. However, as the saying goes, there's an exception for every rule, and PR is no different in that way, either.

At Ripley PR, we work with clients in construction, franchising, home services, manufacturing, and more.

Each industry is different, but media training is fairly standard across the board. We teach clients how to conduct themselves in interviews and how to prepare for a crisis and handle it in the event that one arises, and we work to find them story opportunities in news, trade publications, blogs, and more.

We found this article from Ragan's PR Daily interesting, because it addresses the rules of PR or media relations that were just made to be broken.

Consider a few of these nuggets from the article.

  • It's okay to say "No comment." Especially in a crisis situation, it's important to communicate effectively - but there are times, maybe when you don't have all the facts about a situation, when it's simply best not to talk to the media. And that's okay.

  • Your own news isn't the only opportunity for a story. If you have an expert quote to offer to another story, or an interesting viewpoint on an issue, you can find lots of opportunities to be featured, even if your story isn't the main one.

  • Sometimes exclusive is best. Traditional PR maintains that it's wise to cast a wide net to media outlets - but sometimes you'll have better luck if you offer one publication an exclusive, before reaching out to others.

  • A press conference isn't necessarily your best bet. Many companies think that holding a big event to announce a launch or grand opening is the best way to guarantee coverage, but that's most often not the case. Strategically reaching out to media will generally serve your purposes better.

Ultimately, the best way for companies to get good coverage is to have a good PR strategy - and that's where a B2B public relations agency like Ripley PR comes in.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you achieve great results.

Research conducted in the last two or three years has provided some interesting insight into why it is that we engage with social media:

  • 80% of the content posted on social media sites, during a study conducted in 2012, were generalized posts about the immediate experience of the user. That could be something as simple as, "So tired...not ready for the week to start" or "Stuck in traffic - going to be a long day."

  • Another study showed that users tend to share advertisements and promotions that are an extension of their self-concept, and one of course that is entertaining.

  • Finally, sharing content in the spirit of offering help, advice, or suggestions to others gives people the sense of giving to others. By sharing that great article with a coworker who can benefit from it, you are really being benefitted as well, although in a different way.

So, is this what drives us to engage in social media content?

We want to show the "social world" who we are, how we want to be perceived, all the while being important and helpful to others?

I came across a great article that discusses this in more detail. The author gives a great example of what may be a typical "social media" day for any one user and explains why content is shared.

In thinking of the examples above, the article talks about how these types of content posting activities activate the dopamine reward system, which provides that internal reward that so many of us crave.

The more content sharing and posting in these various ways, the more that reward system is activated.

In extreme cases, it can be likened to a "drug" that people seek out to feel better about themselves.

From a business standpoints, it's a good thing to keep in mind as your marketing team is developing advertisements and engaging with customers - providing information that is entertaining, easy for customers to associate themselves with, and viewed as something that can be shared to help others may increase the virality of the content and enhance brand loyalty and engagement.

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 today's fast-paced, high-tech world, the entire landscape of the media has changed - and continues to change each day.

At Ripley PR, we're constantly keeping an eye on traditional and new media, so that we can make recommendations to our B2B public relations clients that will help them land an interview or bylined article, in a newspaper, industry publication, or even on a blog.

This article from Ragan caught our attention.

It outlines some points to keep in mind in dealing with journalists - points that can ensure you get quoted or featured in the media.

These points are valuable for both PR professionals like ourselves, and company executives looking for media coverage.

Here are the key points:

  • Be prepared: these days, most media outlets are short-staffed, and reporters may run on multiple assignments each day. That means that unlike the old days, they might not have the time to do in-depth research in preparation for an interview and story. So, if you're on the other side of the interview, it's worth it to prepare yourself. That might mean taking some time to research the reporter and what kind of stories he covers, and anticipate what questions he might ask - even ones you would prefer not to answer. Then, prepare your answers - and make sure you're ready to provide some background information on your company.
  • Be professional, but be yourself: It's important to be natural in your interview - building a relationship with a reporter will benefit you down the road. But you must also conduct yourself well. Make sure you've practiced your answers and don't try to fill a silence with awkward, mindless chatter that may lead to giving away something you don't want to. Also, be sure to ask the reporter if he needs any clarification on your answers
  • Follow up: If you promised the reporter you'd send some materials, make sure you do so. You can include a note with them, clarifying any of your comments during the interview and creating another quote that's easy to copy and paste.

People tend to have a negative opinion about journalists, so it's very important to remember that they are people too, and that, just like you, they are trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Keeping these points in mind will show respect for any journalists you deal with, and will help them build respect for you as well.

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 the business-to-business world, your company's job is to fill a very specific need for your customers. Many B2B companies work with clients all over the country and even all over the world, so before they do business with you, potential customers are going to find out all they can about you.

At Ripley PR, we stress to our B2B clients that having a strong website is very important to growing your business.

These days, people are more likely to look up the information they need about a company, service, or product, online than they are to call a company or arrange an in-person visit.

If your website isn't effective at explaining what you do, or what you sell, then potential customers are likely to turn away and find someone else to fill their need.

We work with many clients on website design as part of their B2B public relations strategy. A good website will go a long way toward helping your business grow.

Take a look at some of the elements of a good website:

  • Strong logos and imagery: Your logo should be eye-catching, but not distracting.

  • Let it blend seamlessly in with the rest of the web design.

  • A few strong images that effectively showcase your products or services are also better than cluttering your site with photos.

  • Make it easy to read

    The world is more fast-paced these days, and technology, web design, and best practices are always changing. People will know immediately if your website is out of date when they visit.If your website is long and wordy, or has too many pages, visitors to your site will either have a difficult time finding the information they need, or they'll give up and move on to another company.  Keep it as concise as possible, and separate sections with clear headlines and bullet points.

  • Keep it updated

    Ensure you are always updating it with fresh content, and don't shy away from a redesign if necessary. The world is more fast-paced these days, and technology, web design, and best practices are always changing. People will know immediately if your website is out of date when they visit.

In this day and age, your website is one of the key tools in selling your business, so make sure it's an accurate - and appealing - representation of your company.

For more on intelligent usability, check out Rackspace's article, too.

Contact Ripley PR to find out how we can help you create a great website that will go far in helping you grow your business.

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?

click-to-call-adwords-extension.png

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

click-to-call-adwords-reporting.png

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.

 

 

 

I just had a terrific question posed to me.  Had to dash off this quick reply.

You have to know the background.

A professional colleague had asked for some advice on her website.  Made some suggestions. She made the changes.  (The main suggestion was to incorporate the website with the blog in a more seamless manner.)  She was super excited.

But, she also lamented:

I got one new (largish) client soon after it [new website/blog] went up - seemed like a good omen.

I'm also learning how to use Google Analytics.

One thing I've noticed - by the time someone contacts me through the site, they have already decided to work with me. 

Meeting is almost a formality. 

So that makes me think that the site is doing a good job, but it is also frustrating that I can't reach more people I could help." 

So, for you, and many professionals, the website is attracting only visitors who have already qualified themselves as serious about being your clients.

Holy Cow!  This is a major revelation to Joe and I.

We are always preaching that most websites for professionals have no or little traffic & that they have to do something to increase their pageviews.

But, we are wrong.  We have got it backwards.

 

Here is the second point.

Do you know the favorite landing page for most mediation, legal, accounting and other professional websites is?

It is the "About Us" page.

Naturally, people want to know about you - if they are going to do business with you.

If you have only a few but highly qualified visitors looking at your website, then you need to use that strategic fact.

And, you want to solve this problem: "but it is also frustrating that I can't reach more people I could help."

You just need to find similar people to the qualified visitors - who just became your clients.

Well, and just how do you do that?

 

You actually have the answer.

You take the intake form -you just filled out- when you met your new clients.

You have just described their problem & your solution.

So now, take 20 or 30 minutes, and re-write it as a more general story.

--(Like I took this piece of information from my colleague and wrote it up as a general piece of advice.)

A story you can share on LinkedIn with people that could do business with you.

A story that will get you more of the attention that you deserve.

And, then share that story, circulate it through LinkedIn, and reach more people you could help.

At $30/month, what can you lose?

The Massive Open Online Courses can teach you some important things about your own training videos for your franchisees.

While, I've seen many outstanding videos offered on the MOOCs there are still a distressingly high percentage of them that do not even meet the minimum standards of Public Access TV.

Your franchise training videos likely have one or more of the same problems.

If your franchise training videos has one or more of the following production quality issues, you will have a low viewer completion rates.

  1. Bad Sound Quality: Sound is the Achilles' heel of most educational videos. Most people will put up with poor video but if you cannot hear or understand what is being said there is no use in watching any further. These problems are usually caused by poor microphone placement, low recording levels, background noise and talent who do not speak well on camera.

  2. Poor Lighting: Even bad cameras look good when there is plenty of light yet many videos look as if they were videotaped in a closet. If a student is going to stare at your video for 15 to 60 minutes at least make the images visible.

  3. Poor Graphics: Just like unintelligible sound, unreadable graphics are useless. If the viewer cannot read or follow the graphic why include it? This is more than a PowerPoint slide with small text, this includes flow charts that are so dense and detailed they cannot be followed or photographs of such poor quality it is hard to tell what they are.

  4. All Text Presentations: If the only thing the presenter is doing is reading the text off of one PowerPoint slide after another why not just send the student the PowerPoint slides?

  5. Talking Heads: Or even worse, talking shadows on a distant stage. Videotaping lectures is probably the quickest and easiest way to record educational content but it does not have to be the most boring way to present educational content. (I've written several blogs on videotaping lectures, including how I think the TED Lectures get it right.)

  6. Long Videos: One of the best features of online videos is that the presenter is not required to lecture for 50 minutes as they are often required to in a scheduled class. They can make the video segment as long, or as short as it needs to be. Yet many online classes are 50 or 60 minutes because that is the length of a traditional classroom lecture. If students fall asleep in a classroom during a long lecture they will fall asleep faster during a long video lecture.

  7. Not Using the Medium: Why, in this new world of television production where an inexpensive HD video camera can fit in the palm of your hand, do so many of the online video classes take place behind a lectern? Are cameras not allowed in the lab or out in the field? Is it impossible to interview an expert or illustrate a concept with animation? Television is personal and mobile. Take advantage of its strengths.

There are ways to improve production quality and the quality of your programs that will improve the effectiveness of your overall online course.

Are you involved in producing video for training?

What are your biggest production quality challenges?

What obstacles do you face in producing your videos? Let me know in the discussion section below.

If you are involved in producing educational or training video and would like some feedback on your production quality then contact us for a video consultation.

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]

While it might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, over the last few years parallax scrolling has become one of the most trendy ways to design a website.

No matter whether you run a business-to-consumer or business-to-business company, you want to make sure you have a fresh, memorable website that showcases what it is your business does.

At Ripley PR, we often work with clients on website design as part of a comprehensive B2B public relations strategy, so we like to stay up on trends like parallax scrolling.

So what exactly is parallax scrolling?

Basically, using parallax scrolling creates an immersive, 3D experience when you're scrolling through a website.

It's become popular enough that some websites are overwhelming, but when used well, it can make your web browsing experience really enjoyable.

Spotify is one example of a site that uses subtle parallax scrolling well.

Another is the visually stimulating site for the Academy Award-winning movie "Life of Pi."

Life-of-Pi-Screenshot.png

Parallax scrolling on the "Life of Pi" website causes the images on the screen to change as you scroll down

As you can see, a website with parallax scrolling requires a lot of creativity and complex coding ability.

Some might argue the market is saturated with sites like this, but we believe that it can be useful for many companies looking to build a brand.

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 types of content you share on social channels work together to communicate with your audience, and the most effective content strategies are those that are focused on bringing value to the audience, not in pushing sales.

Each piece of content should be related to your company's industry and do one of five things:

  • inspire your audience
  • inform your audience
  • motivate your audience
  • educate your audience
  • entertain your audience

Each of these five things is beneficial to your audience in one way or another, and depending on the company some work better than others.

There are many types of content you can use that will accomplish those five goals, and ideally in the course of a week, for example, post content might achieve all five.

Consider the following types of content to include in your strategy:

Audio/Visual
Consider media such as videos and images. People love to be visually engaged. Consider creating unique infographics, photo postcards or videos. Stay away from "commercial" advertising videos and focus on videos that help your audience, such as how-to tutorials or web TV episodes. Entertaining (and audience-appropriate) clips from YouTube can also generate a good response.

Quotes
Look around for quotes by other experts in your industry. Consider adding these quotes to images to make them more visual. Sharing quotes from one of your own experts can be very effective, as well, and it magnifies your brand expertise.

Articles
Locate articles that would be of benefit to your audience. LinkedIn ; is a great resource, as well as other news sites. Blog directories like alltop.com grant access to large quantities of current articles.

It is also very important to create original articles that would be showcased on your company blog. These, more than anything, provide an opportunity to showcase your company's expertise and provide a valuable service to your audience. Post these articles on your company blog and share on social networks. This is also one of the best ways to direct people to your website.

There are many, many types of content that accomplish the five goals that will benefit your audience. For example:

  • Illustrations

  • Quotes

  • Infographics

  • Memes

  • Articles

  • How-to's

  • Photos

  • Videos

  • Statistics

  • SlideShare presentations

  • Facts

  • Stories

  • Blogs

  • Press releases

  • News

  • Jokes

  • And more

Once you identify the types of content that work best for your company, posts must be created for unique audiences on each social network. The same content should not go out to every social network because users want different things.

Find out more about how to create content that will engage users on unique platforms by clicking here.

Remember that creating and distributing content is only one part of the social media communication process. In order for your social media to be effective, your company has to be listening to its audience. You must monitor what's happening, respond to their posts, engage with them, deliver superior customer service, and consistently tailor your strategy so that your content is most effective.

Selling is explaining & educating  your audience on their important problems.

And you have solutions.

Selling with stories is old, even though now we call it content marketing.

Brief History of Content Marketing Infographic.jpg

To be good at content marketing, selling solutions with stories, you have to overcome these problems.

  • Too few people visit your website and read your blog

  • You don't have a good email list to send to

  • You spent money on SEO, it failed

  • You tried to Self-distribute & it was too hard.

We can help you find people who could do business with you, start here.

In the early 1950s, marketing geniuses at the Guinness Brewery began distributing a book to pub-goers that they hoped would settle debates and bar bets once-and for all.

The Guinness Book of World Records was given free of charge to local bars as a marketing gimmick to generate publicity for the Brewery. 

The results of the campaign were a huge success, making history and becoming one of the bestselling books of all time.

By the mid-1950s, hundreds of brands were developing storylines and characters to entertain TV audiences each night as families gathered around their sets to watch their favorite shows.  Brands like Coca-Cola, Chef Boyardee, and Betty Crocker became household favorites, and TV viewers began stocking their kitchens with these well-known products.

For decades advertisers have effectively and profitably promoted products and services to potential customers in spaces where their audiences gathered.   

TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers have been traditional advertising platforms for many years, and now with digital platforms, like websites, search engines, and social media, expanding at record pace, marketers are having to finding "new" ways to reach and impact their audiences.

Many marketers, media outlets, and social platforms are turning to a buzzword called "native advertising." 

Seen as an effective advertising concept in the past, native advertising is non-interruptive, paid content that is embedded into an editorial copy.  

In the space where advertisers typically had to pay for the right to disrupt content or editorial copy, with native advertising, companies are paying to be part of the conversation.

It works especially well for business-to-consumer companies looking to become household names, but if you're a business-to-business company, you can certainly make use of native advertising as well as part of your B2B public relations and marketing strategy.

Even if you don't typically deal directly with consumers, making your name known is still helpful for helping you find customers, franchisees, or anyone else who helps you do business.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the six types of native ads highlighted in  IAB Native Advertising Playbook include:

  1. In-Feed Units (such as Facebook's ads with a social context)

  2. Paid search

  3. Recommendation widgets (often seen as "From Around the Web")

  4. Promoted listings (Etsy, Amazon, Google, etc.)

  5. Standard ads with native elements (banner or box with text or placed at beginning of post)

  6. Custom campaigns created with the client (Spotify, Pandora, Tumblr, etc.)

These updated tried-and true initiatives are profiting hundreds of media outlets and social sites.  Think about the last time you saw a promoted post on Facebook, a list of "suggested" followers on Twitter, or a celebrity promoting their favorite product in a testimonial video on your favorite website. This oldie but goodie phenomenon is very profitable for a number of media platforms, and with the Wall Street Journal joining the native moment last week and joining other media outlets like Time Magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, native advertising is here to stay.

Adding native advertising to your marketing and public relations strategy can benefit a business; however, it's important to remember two elements:  measurement and transparency.

Native Advertising Measurement - Identifying what to measure in a native advertising campaign can vary; however, the key is to develop strong Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during the planning process of the campaign. KPIs may include reviewing time someone spent with the content and what actions they took. Actions can include: "liking" something on Facebook, "retweeting" a post on Twitter, or even making an ecommerce transaction. These are good metrics to measure.  The important step in identifying KPIs early in planning process, is that the content is created with the KPI in mind.

Native Advertising Transparency - Including key words like "Sponsored By" or "Presented By" are key aspects of native advertising.  Online news publications and social sites require the transparency between editorial and advertising, and these key phrases are requirements into including within native advertising.

With native advertising old things are new again, even if the "new" is evolving and developing at an incredible speed.

At Ripley PR, we believe in developing strategic public relations and marketing strategies for businesses, and this always includes creating engaging content that impacts your audiences.  If your company would like help with creating a successful B2B public relations and marketing strategy that will engage your audience more, please contact the experts at Ripley PR.

Whether you're searching the Internet for fitness advice, the best restaurants in your area, marketing tips for your business, or historical facts about the city you live in, you are more likely to click on a list that neatly provides you information than a long article.

List articles have become increasingly popular over the last several years. Entire websites are dedicated to content of this nature, and although often associated with entertainment, these pieces are also incredibly valuable marketing tools.  Publishing 'Top 5′ articles is a great way to spice up your content marketing calendar.

Here are five reasons why:

1.) Variety:

These pieces can be about anything; ranging from specific tips and advice about your business, to interesting facts and knowledge from your industry. This allows room for creativity and makes you a leader in your field.

2.) Concise:

Lists deliver information with clarity and are easy to scan. If you are a business that specializes in a particular area of service, provides unique products, or has a distinctive knowledge of a subject, these articles are the perfect way to deliver your message with precision.

3.) Accessible:

These articles appeal to everyone. Men and women of all ages and demographics can read the summarizing lists and gain value from your content. That accessibility means that it can be applied to a number of audiences and reach customers who may have normally been outside of your scope.

4.) Creativity:

These articles present the opportunity to enrich your content marketing with multimedia, allowing you to craft engaging and unique pieces. Your lists are not limited to text; they can be pictures, video, '.gifs', and more. Multimedia rich content will drastically improve your SEO, as well as appeal to a wider audience.

5.) Effectiveness:

These articles attract readers. The fact that you are reading this article now proves this point. They are engaging and provide digestible facts about virtually anything pertaining to your business. List articles can be applied both directly and indirectly to your business, making them extremely effective for building your online presence.

Keep these top five tips in mind next time you're planning your content marketing calendar and trying to brainstorm effective content ideas for your next blog post or whitepaper.

The post 5 Reasons Why 'Top 5′ Articles Provide Effective Content Marketing appeared first on LocalVox.

If design is what attracts others to your site, content is what will make them stay! For this post in the "6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program" series, we'll go over the importance of a targeted partner content marketing strategy and what it entails to get it right!

As you may know by now, a blog that's constantly updated can generate up to 7 times more traffic than a static site! Not only that but, according to Content+, 60% of customers feel more positive about a company after they've read custom content in their site!

So, to sum it up, partner marketing is great for your online presence and to engage potential customers! If you need more reasons why you should include partner content marketing in the web marketing strategy for your co-op marketing program, here they are:

  • Shows the Human and Caring Side of Your Company

  • Connects with the Audience at a Local Level

  • Drives SEO and Potential Leads

  • Increases Your Authority in a Subject and in the Industry

What Partner Content Marketing Entails

1. Topic Inspiration

The first thing about content marketing has to do with what will you write about. Your partners need targeted topics that make sense for the strategy that corporate has set for them. Producing new post ideas constantly can be tiring, but you can always help out your partners' content efforts, and even share some renewable sources of inspiration they could dig into.

2. Editorial Calendar

After your partners have an idea of what they'll write about, they should put together an editorial calendar to stay organized in their strategy. In it, they can plan out when and what they'll be posting about. Just remember to make sure they update it constantly so they aren't lost on where they are and where they should go.

3. Producing the Content

Now, the tricky part. Actually producing blog posts requires some technique, skill, expertise, and time to produce a quality, well written, targeted article that people would want to read.

Content marketing is extremely time consuming and, if they don't pay close attention to what they're doing, the results won't be as great as expected. On that note, make sure your partners will create compliant but targeted content by sharing guidelines with them!

Once your partners are done with producing juicy content, it's time to make the articles readable, and images can really help you out there. Remember, even though content is meant to give your boost your SEO efforts, it's of no use if potential customers aren't reading it!

4. Optimization

The last thing I do before posting a new article, is make sure that my content is SEO ready. There are a bunch of steps to consider in this. To sum it up, your partners would want to proofread their article, make sure keywords are present in a coherent but consistent way, add tags to links and images, and take care of the page title and meta data, among other things!

How Empowerkit Can Help

Indeed, content is great and it's crucial if you want to launch a successful partner web marketing strategy in your co-op marketing program! But, let's face it, it can be a big hassle and it's probable that your partners won't get it right due to the fact that they're busy people trying to keep their local unit above the water! If your staff doesn't have the time to create the content, that's OK.

We'll do it for you! A dedicated copywriter will work with you to write content for your site! We'll produce compliant content that makes sense for each partners' specific audience! Plus, we have a library of thousands of images that you can use on your site for free! All our images have been hand-picked for your partners' small businesses! They liven up the partner sites and their content.

Remember that your partners will be able to call us at 510.859.8452 anytime they'd like to make an update to their site! So, even if they have limited technical skills don't have the time, they can contact us directly to make new content updates. This way there will be no more excuses for your partners not succeeding online!

Conclusion

Partner content is one of the most important tactics to have a successful web marketing program! Many companies neglect it for fear of brand compliance issues or the fact that their partners don't have the time/expertise to take care of it. Still, as the Internet becomes a larger platform, more companies will have to move their brand online and use content marketing as a way to provide value and increase their rank, so why not get a head start and do it now? If you're not sure how you and your partners should go about it, there are always ways for you to collaborate and create a compliant content marketing strategy that makes sense for local audiences! To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: SetupDesign,  Social MediaOff Site SEOAnalytics. Have a question about Empowerkit or this post? Let us know in the comment section! 

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Partner Content Marketing appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

These days, companies are using social media like never before.

It's an incredible tool for offering coupons and promotions, letting your customers know about new products or services, and simply interacting with the public to get an idea of what they like and don't like about your business.

But with our mobile world making it easier to make posts on social media accounts at any time of the day or night, it can also come back to haunt you.

At Ripley PR, we encourage all of our clients, even business-to-business companies, to be active on social media.

Whatever your customer base is, they are very likely to be using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn - and they may be on other social media sites as well, such as Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest.

We provide crisis training as part of a B2B public relations strategy for each of our clients, and in recent years, more companies have dealt with fallout from social media crises. So how can you avoid such a fate?

Consider these simple tips to communicate effectively on social media.

  • Be careful what you post. Anyone is susceptible to high emotions in the face of criticism or negative attention, but in the business world, you must be especially careful about what you say. Social media is not the best place to air grievances about customer complaints, or to call out or insult any detractors you might have. Just like you should before you speak - you should also think before you post. If you do feel the need arise to respond to a negative comment by a customer or follower, don't do so right away, especially if you're angry. Let your emotions settle, and then think it through carefully; perhaps even ask a second person to look at the post before you send it into the ether.

  • Have a social media policy in place. Whether you have one person posting to your company social media pages or a dozen, having a protocol for best practice will ensure that any posts will meet company standards. That policy can extend to employees' personal accounts as well - make sure they know what is and isn't acceptable social media behavior.

  • Watch your reputation. This requires being alert to news stories about your company, hashtags, and other references to your name. You can set up Google Alerts for certain keywords related to your business and industry, and follow tags that might have an impact on you. That way, if you do see a negative reputation starting to develop, either for your company specifically or your business in general, you can figure out the best way to resolve complaints and keep them from spreading further. And your customers will appreciate your efforts to keep them satisfied.

As you can see, social media can be an incredible marketing tool, but if handled improperly, it can have disastrous consequences. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out on social media, and your company can be a good example of social marketing, rather than a bad one.

Yes, content is king, but it's a demanding monarch that takes up your franchise/partners' resources (time, money) and that requires a certain level of expertise.

Granted, it can be very generous in the long run but, it can become frustrating to those seeking for immediate results.

Patience, consistency and quality are musts to get the most out of content marketing.

And let's face it, it's more than probable that your franchisee's don't have the time or interest to steer away from other tasks to sit down and write twice a month. They're trying to run a business! They need to focus on getting everything their in local units right!

Furthermore, in an effort to get the content task over with, they may rush the writing process and produce mediocre blog posts! On the other hand, I'm sure you've heard that locally relevant content is a great way to engage audiences and to climb the SEO ladder, which improves visibility, lead generation and ROI.

So, if you're in it to win it, it's probable that you don't want to miss the opportunity to have targeted content on your partner sites! If your channel partners are stretched thin but you would like them to improve their lead generation online with content that will fit their specific audiences, here are a few tips that can help you help them:

1. Training Your Partners

First and foremost: there's no way a franchise marketing strategy will work if they don't even know what that is. That's why it's important to train them (even though they won't be producing content regularly). Make sure your franchise's know about content marketing, the goal you're trying to achieve with it and what role should they play in it.

2. Inspiring

Again, this is something that won't happen often but, if you'd like a targeted strategy, your partners may need to chime in from time to time. And, you can make their job a lot easier if you share topic inspiration through newsletters, as well as examples, best practices and quotes. Believe me, finding what to write about can be stressing and frustrating, so give them a hand in this aspect. You can even encourage them to read related blogs so that the post ideas are constantly flowing.

3. Offering a Helping Hand

Obviously, you'll need to help your partners with content marketing so it can be done right. First of all, aim for a more punctual approach (handing out tasks more than inspiration). You can even allow them to customize their site with easy content like: video, photos, audio, testimonials, and making little updates here and there. Furthermore, you could provide customizable templates so they can tweak certain aspects of it and target the content!

4. Taking Over

Most of the time, and since content can be very demanding, you will want to hire a team of experts to take care of content marketing for your partners. Delegating this task onto them will not only make your partners' jobs easier, but it will also guarantee better results at the end. These are people that are dedicated to content, know the business, and will do what's needed to get you, your partner sites and your company, to the top visibility spots in the search pages, while remaining compliant and locally relevant!

How Empowerkit Can Help

Empowerkit is an intuitive website builder that allows partner site management. Still, as stated in this post, partners don't have time to get away from their local units, so we're here to provide online marketing services for you and your partners! We can take over your partners content marketing and create compliant posts on a regular basis that will engage local audiences. At the same time, we can manage your channel partners' social media accounts and take care of other online marketing tactics! Give us a call (510.859.8452) and try Empowerkit out!

Are you blogging for your business? You should be. The internet represents an unlimited opportunity for your brand, and blogs are just one of many platforms that can benefit you. Blogs can not only get your brand name some exposure, but they can provide value to your consumers.

Ripley PR is strong believer in the creative use of blogs to increase business-to-business communications. Keeping them updated with relevant information is key to keeping customers coming back.

A quiet blog won't do anything for your company or its followers. There's still a lot you need to know about how to run your blog and optimize it for everyone's benefit.

Here are eight ways that you can use your blog to improve your business:

1. Get people talking about your brand

Every small business could use some exposure, and blogs are a great way to do it. But it's not as easy as it sounds. The key to getting people to come to your blog is to provide timely, quality content. Keep it relevant, well-written and insightful. Provide your readers with content that they desire, and they will show up.

2. Do market research

Blogs present a quick, easy way to learn about your customers and find out who they are. Put up some polls to see what people think about certain products, or figure out their demographics. But don't ignore the opportunity to get open-ended feedback too, so ask questions about your customers on the blog and invite comments.

3. Keep customers up-to-date about your company

Your customers aren't going to sift through boring press releases or painstakingly search through tons of media outlets to find out what's going on with your company. Your blog can be a quick stop for anyone to check up on the latest happenings, but make sure you're posting items that are newsworthy. If it's worth a press release, it's worth a blog post, but make sure you add some value--in the form of additional analysis or new information--for your readers.

4. Reward your readers

Contests and giveaways are the most common ways to give back to your readers, but make sure you're creative with them. Do the unexpected every once in a while.

5. Interconnect the parts of your online presence

Your company is probably using a lot of different services on the web, and a blog can be used to help connect them. Link out to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and be sure to prominently feature a way to get to your main business website.

6. Share product reviews

Don't make your consumers go all across the web to find out what people think about your product. Not only can you share positive product reviews to help your reputation, but a blog gives you that rare chance to defend yourself against negative reviews. So don't be afraid to call out bad reviews that you find--either acknowledge them as useful criticism, or fight back.

7. Answer questions

Blogs are another platform that can be used to directly communicate with your customers. A blog can be used to answer common questions and concerns. If there's a particular issue that seems to be standing out for your customers, write about it.

8. Interact with your customers

Develop brand loyalty by showing that your company has a human side. Speak with customers personally, invite a few guest posts from your more eloquent readers and give them a wall or message board to voice their opinions, talk to each other and interact with you. Build a community, and be a prominent part of it.

If you're still not using a blog as a part of your B2B public relations strategy, get in touch with Ripley PR today. We'll show you more ways it can help you grow your business - and we can help you get started.

I read an interesting post by Jason Calcanis on whether Google was a good partner in the context of YouTube, publishers and advertising share.  

And it really resonated with me in all my conversations with agencies and partners, even most recently at the BWG Strategy Roundtable on SEO/SEM (where 90% of the discussion is SEM and not SEO where 95% of the clicks occur).    

The only entity that wins with Google is Google.   Perhaps that is why Matt Cutts, Google Spokesperson so clearly declared "Google doesn't have partners!"

Ouch.   You should take note.

Google is a Monopoly. Expect a Monopolistic Partner Policy.

I recently engaged in a conversation with some search engine experts where we talked about the real market share of Bing and Yahoo.  

Many industry stats declare it to be 30% but that is wishful thinking.   If you look at the SEO traffic from almost any sites Google Analytics, the amount of SEO traffic from Bing and Yahoo is sub-10%.  

Those 30% who use Bing and Yahoo don't search nearly as often as Googlers.  

So with over 90% search share, Google is a monopoly.

So Google sets the rules.  

And they run a very efficient marketplace, which means they balance the supply and demand of buyers and sellers with as little margin for the middle man (agencies, etc.) as possible.  

And with programatic buying methods getting more sophisticated, it's hard to establish a profitable margin without huge advertising spends.   And of course, Google is just as happy to help directly, so agencies can be easily disintermediated.

The result, costs per click are going up.  Margins and ROI are going down.  Google takes more of the pie.

Google Only Wants You to Play Their Game - Advertising

Facebook recently received a lot of bad press regarding their algorithm change which made it even harder for brands to get into the news feed.   Why?  Because brands now have to pay to get into the newsfeed of their followers with sponsored updates.   Hindering organic connections between brands and consumers means more advertising.

Google plays the same game. Over the past couple of years, Google has made it harder and harder to quantify the value and successful tactics of SEO campaigns by hiding the keywords from organic searches in analytics.  

What this means is that you might be able to see if your search traffic has gone up, but you don't know what's working which means agencies have trouble justifying their SEO spends to clients.   That's good news for Google who won't let Certified Partners state that they can help improve your rankings.   Google won't even acknowledge the practice of SEO.

Another example is click to call tracking which is critical for managing local campaign effectiveness.  Google enables it for advertising but doesn't track click-to-call on Google Places (but almost every other metric).   If you want tracking, better advertise.

Diversifying Your Effort, Delivering Better Marketing Value

The problem like dealing with any monopoly is the apparent lack of choice.  But there is a choice.  Only 2% of local businesses think pay-per-click advertising is effective.  Invest in the marketing channels that are more effective, even if the metrics are less clear.

  • Invest in SEO and spend the time educating why and how it is valuable.  Track what you can. Have faith where you don't have granular metrics (heck, even 71% of marketers think SEM has unclear ROI metrics)

  • Invest in growing and leveraging owned media channels.  If you have a direct line to consumers, you don't have to pay to play.  Email, social, etc.

  • Invest in channels that grow in value over time.  Once you stop paying for advertising, you get no additional value.  Focus your advertising on the owned channels.  If you have to play monopoly rules, use them to build independence.

We are big believers in the power of content marketing and we are not alone.  Check out the Google trends on Content Marketing vs search engine marketing.   It's still only 1/5th of "Pay Per Click" but look at the slopes of the lines.  People are already shifting their budgets.  Are you?

 

(The post Should You Really Put All Those Eggs in Google's SEM / PPC Basket? appeared first on LocalVox.)

Whenever I've said in the past that a successful partner online marketing strategy is hard work, I meant it!

Still, just getting your partner sites set-up, designing them properly, venturing into content marketing, etc. won't cut it!

No matter how much we want it, online marketing doesn't stop in the partner sites: you need to encourage your channel partners to promote your company through business listings, have them look for opportunities to get back links and, even pay ads! It can be pretty overwhelming.

For example, link building is all about reaching out to other sites and asking them to give your site a back link (via guest blogging, blog syndication, etc.) Which means that, on top of creating unique, relevant content for their sites, your partners (or your content team) will have to write unique, relevant content for other sites!

This can be time consuming and exhausting and it's just PART of what Off Site SEO entails.

However, Off Site SEO is extremely important for any partner web marketing strategy, and here are some reasons why:

  • More Exposure: The more places your business is mentioned, the more possibility there is for others to see it!
  • Validation/Visibility: Backlinks "tell" Google that you are a real business and that you can be trusted, which gives your partners a higher ranking in the search pages.
  • Lead Generation: Off Site SEO means more traffic to your partner sites and, potentially, more leads.
  • Better ROI Online: The more leads, the better ROI you'll have thanks to the partner online efforts.

Preparing an Off Site SEO Strategy

Just as with their on site efforts, your partners should set certain goals for their Off Site strategy! How many backlinks do they need? What's your target? What Page Rank should the sites you're reaching out to have? These and more questions should be answered before moving forward!

Looking for/Evaluating Opportunities

Whether it is looking for the right business listings for your company or searching for great guest posting opportunities, you need to make sure that they will benefit your online presence. This means not going with the first options you get, but digging deeper searching for the link building strategy that your partners or corporate has put together for them.

Reaching Out

This is only applicable to guest posting but it is one of the trickiest parts! Your partners should reach out to those sites that they're interested in getting backlinks from via emails and, in most cases, suggest topics that they could write about for that site. Next, comes waiting for their reply and hoping that they'll like what your partners have to offer!

Producing the Information

Guest blogging, like creating content for partner sites, takes time: coming up with ideas, outlining, writing, proofreading, sending the post, etc. Likewise, your partners will need to make sure they're presenting the right information through their business listings and getting every piece of data that a lead may need to go to them!

Checking Back

Again, a great benefit these efforts provide is getting people to your partners and have them interested in your company at a local level! This is why you need to make sure your partners are checking back to answer any doubts and join in on the conversation. Whether it is through business listings or answering comments on blog posts, you shouldn't leave a potential customers hanging!

Putting up Ads

Another strategy in any Off SEO Strategy has to do with putting up online ads! This way, when people in your partners' area look for something related to your business, your company will appear as an ad. Nonetheless, this take money, time, and expertise because your partners will need to produce a relevant advertising message for their local audiences!

How Empowerkit Can Help

As mentioned above, Off Site SEO is crucial to a successful strategy and to get leads to your partner sites! But, as you can see, it is extremely hard work! If you'd like to give your partners a break, we can help! Empowerkit is not only a white label website builder, it is also a services provider that can help you all along the way to a effective partner marketing program!

For example, we can submit your partner websites to the appropriate directories and get them the backlinks they need to rank in Google! Plus, when your partners get their Empowerkit site, they'll also get $50 of free advertising credit that they can use for advertising your business!

With this credit they'll be able to market their partner sites towards their visitors. Last but not least, if at any time you or your partners would like to tweak the strategy, you can call us at 510.859.8452 and let us know what updates you need! Even if you or your partners don't have time, it won't matter! You can call us directly and we'll do it for you.

Conclusion

As you can see, having a successful web marketing program doesn't stop at the site! There are tactics that will help the search engines understand that your partners have a serious business and that they're relevant to the searches the users are making.

By failing to fulfill these tasks, you and your partners run the risk of having a beautiful, totally optimized partner site that no one will ever see!

Still, if you think that this is too much, contact us! We are happy to help!

To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: Setup, Design, Content Marketing, Social Media, Analytics.

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Off Site SEO appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

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

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

As someone who advises others on ways to increase their web traffic, including but not exclusively SEO, I use Alexa. Anyone interested in measuring web traffic should use it.

One thing that Alexa is great for is weeding out the hucksters. Most of us get email from so called SEO experts who promise to increase your SEO ranking. Take a quick look at their Alexa score and see if they can walk the walk.

Remember that the goal of SEO is to increase traffic NOT necessarily get ranked high on one or two keywords. For example getting ranked #1 for your company name on Google Search does not help your web traffic.

It is easy to get ranked high for one keyword but bit harder to increase relevant web traffic.

Alexa is an excellent tool for comparing website traffic in a general way in that it gives your website a ranking compared to all other websites. It is not great for measuring the website traffic for any one particular site.

For example I know what my site's Alexa score is and from Google Analytics and HubSpot I know what my site's traffic is.

Then, I can look at the Alexa rankings and tell if other sites are getting more or less traffic & if they are getting a lot more or a lot less.

You can register your site with Alexa for free and this will increase your chances of getting a more accurate ranking.

Paying for certification will give even more accurate results and give you tools to measure your site's activity.

For quickly measuring another website I use the SEO for Chrome extension for my browser and SEO Book has a great toolbar for Firefox.

This is a great article about Alexa and everyone publishing on the web should know about their Alexa score, because everyone else knows your score.

Why don't 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]

Last week, Joe and I were helping a franchisor supplier understand the value of his business listing in a online directory.

Companies and franchisors can pay between $150 to $900 monthly for a business listing in a specialized online directory.

They want referrals or leads.

But, many fail to understand how to evaluate the effectiveness of their listing.

We asked our client (2) questions.

1.  How many leads/month did he get from the listing?

2.  How did he know the answer to the first question?

He thought that he maybe got 5 leads/month.  He based this upon what the owners of the directory told him & what the leads said.

I didn't believe these numbers - more on why in a moment.

So, I asked him what he asked the leads?  "Oh, I ask them where they heard about us."  

"And you prompt them, don't you, with "Did you see us in X directory?" or something like it?", I said.

The client agreed - and then realized that of course the lead had no idea if they had seen his business in the directory.  The lead was just being pleasant and agreeing with him.

And what about the franchise directory owner's and their numbers?

"Well, they tell me that 5 leads is about what they see?"

"Really - and what reports are they sending you?", I  asked.

Despite the site having Google analytic tags, the franchise directory owners were not sending any reports on what traffic the listing was actually seeing.  

Because the franchise directory owners weren't tracking events, they could not they track how many people had visited the directory & clicked through to his website for a demo.

There are a number of solutions to this tracking problem - as long as you can access your directory listing and change the content.

1.  You could insert you own google analytics code - and get direct reports.

2. You could insert some other tracking code, from either Compete.com or Quantcast.com

But the solution, we favor and like, is different.

Put a simple form on your franchise directory listing - first, last name & email.  Offer something of interest in exchange for their first, last name & email.

And here is the extra sauce: construct a process by which the lead qualifies themselves for your product before you ask them to sign up for a demo.

One thing we are keen on is getting a LinkedIn verified lead - so that we have someone's Linkedin profile before we put a lead into our sale process.  

And we have various ways of getting the person to ask to connect with us - if they don't, they aren't a prospect only a suspect.

In fact, if you like this idea then, sign up for Franchise-Info newsletter.

97% of consumers search for local businesses online.

Which basically means that people are searching for you but at a local level!

This is where your partner sites fit in: as a platform to capture leads that are in need of a business like yours, but within their area.

Setting up your partner sites is the first step towards moving your brand into the Internet!

And it's a big step at that: in this first instance, your partners need to get EVERYTHING together since it's like they're starting from a clean slate. Basically, they'll need to build a whole site from the ground up.

To get a better idea of what needs to be taken care of in this stage of the process, here's an overview of what's included to set a site up and have it ready for a successful launch:

What Partner Sites Setup Entails

1. Planning

You need to figure out what your strategy is and how that affects your partner sites. Think about defining questions like: what are you going to control? what will you allow partners to edit? What materials will you provide?

2. Design

What will the partner sites' colors be? What typography are partners using in their site? What's the layout and navigation plan for the partner sites? Design is what gives off the first impression of your company to potential customers so be sure you have everything down!

3. Content

Content is the reason visitors are in your site. Design can make it appealing but, at the end of the day, content is what they're looking for. For example, there are some information musts that need to be in your site before anything else happens (like your contact info, list of services/ products you offer, among other things).

4. Elements

Now that you have some of the basics down it's time to move on to the other elements that will complete your site: buttons, CTAs, social media feeds, apps, images, and other elements in your site that need to be placed.

5. Usability

For a site to work properly, you need to think about the user experience. An unfriendly partner site can drive visitors away from it. Think about what users expect to get from your site and how you're providing it to them. For example: is your site mobile optimized? Is it intuitive enough for others to use it? And, what's the loading speed like?

Conclusion

Setting up a site is hard work because you're taking care of all the basics a site needs for it to work properly. From the design to getting it to work for mobile devices, a site is a lot more than what meets the eye. If you or your partners aren't ready to take on this step but still want to take advantage of all the traffic local businesses are driving to their sites, feel free to give us a call and try Empowerkit out!

How Empowerkit Can Help

As you can see, this task can be a handful. And, if it's not done right, it won't do much good for your partner online marketing strategy. And let's face it, doesn't matter how easy you make it for your partners to take care of this themselves, chances are they're too busy with their physical business to move into the world wide web!

But don't worry! Empowerkit can help you, your partners and your business out! We handle the initial site setup and on-boarding process to get you acquainted with our program. We take on the task of setting up your partner sites until they've reached the standards corporate have set for them.

Then, we scale this mold (known in Empowerkit as "Master Site") down to all partners who opt-in this co-op web marketing program. Plus, if there are any updates to be made for the Master Site later down the road, you can call us at 510.859.8452 and we'll work on them for you! Once they're done, the results will immediately appear in the partners sites!

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Partner Sites Setup appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

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"My customers are not online, they don't do LinkedIn."

Generally this comes from a business owner who doesn't like social media or they talked to one of their customers who does not have a LinkedIn account.

For all I know they may be right.

I haven't researched their customer's profiles but after a few questions it is clear they have not researched their customers' profile either.

Even though some of your potential customers are not online many of them are. Most of these active, online prospects are not going to be reached with outbound marketing techniques like direct mail or an ad in the yellow pages.

Where can a business owner or marketer get information on what their potential customers are doing online?

First, you will need to define your customer profile or persona so you will know what your potential customer is like.

A good place to start is this blog from HubSpot: How to Build Better Buyer Personas to Drive Killer Content.

The next step is to start finding out a bit more about who your potential customers based upon the demographic data you have been collecting when they visit your website.

How to Use Forrester's Social Technographics Tool

In Forrester's ground breaking book Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, they classified consumers into seven overlapping levels of social technology participation. (See slide 3 for the classification.)

This tool shows you how different groups identified by age, gender and nationality fit into each of these classifications.

For example, with this tool we can see that 18 to 24 year old women in the U.S. are more likely than men in the same age group to be creators while men are more likely to be critics.

Both genders in this age group are more active online than those in the 35 to 44 age bracket.

Go ahead and try it, using the demographics you have been collecting on visitors to your website.

Link: Forrester Social Technographic Profile Tool

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Franchisors have to work hard to market & sell franchises.

We need to work to attract attention to our franchise concept.

And, once we get attention for our brand, unless we maintain that interest we don't get the sale. 

Smart franchisors and savvy franchise sellers are recruiting for the best talent and capital to grow their franchise systems. When it comes to talent some franchisors want a specific skill set or they want a type of person who has certain attributes. The franchisor also wants someone who has money available to develop the brand on a single or multi-unit basis.

You want both talent and capital. Short-cutting your own requirements usually leads to franchisor/franchisee relationship problems down the road.

How do you find these people?

You target them.

And, you go to where they are & talk with them.

We did this with all the brands I've been with.

But, one brand attracted attention in a thoughtful manner.

This QSR franchise wanted to be in new convenience store and truck stop developments.

So, we needed to attract attention and sell some new franchises.

Here's what we did -and why it worked.

We joined the C-store and Truck stop trade associations and found out what made our target audience tick. (We had already refined our concept to fit with c-stores, travel plazas and truck stops.)

But, we had to tell our story and that meant more than buying display advertising in the classified sections.  We needed an audience.

We wanted our story out there.  In front of that audience.

And, we needed our story to be told in a way that the audience could relate to.

The audience got to decide whether or not our franchise concept fit into what they wanted to do next and if it solved their problem.

Yes, we ran display advertising, exhibited at trade shows and used direct mail.  Did all the usual things.

But, what made all of this work better -and amplified our story- was  our use of PR Firm, who knew franchising.

Next, we:

  1. Educated the PR Firm exactly on what our concept was about.

  2. Demonstrated how we fit with our target audience.

  3. Developed our action plan.

  4. Scheduled weekly PR execution calls.

We didn't "set it and forget it".

We did what we were good at & let the PR firm do their job, giving them the best the information and support we could provide.

In 90 days, we got some press.

We'd already got attention through our ads, trade shows and direct mail. We were maintaining interest. Conversations grew and so did our franchise sales.

And 14 months into the campaign we made the cover of a credible and widely read C-store industry trade publication!  The same publication we had our ads in.  But, we had moved from the classifieds to being newsworthy.  On the front page, baby!

We instantly became more popular, our phone kept ringing and people called us to meet them at the next industry trade show.

Our franchise PR strategy worked because all the parts and complements were in alignment.  

We weren't seeking a lot of attention - we were trying to amplify the attention we were getting from our ads.

And so, we sold more franchises.  Because we got the right sort of attention from our audience.

 

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Marketers may say all customers were not created equal, and customer segmentation makes it possible to understand and embrace the fact that it's human nature to be different. You may never know which customer segment will be the most valuable to your business until you've tried to match your marketing and customer experience efforts with the needs of your customer types.

This anecdote can help you understand why you need to identify the right way to engage with each customer segment.   

refining customer segmentation with surveys otss.png

Part 1: Understand Types of Engagement and Common Gaps in Data

Remember back to elementary school, how differently your classmates reacted to the teacher when questions were posed- It's likely that there were some kids who raised their hands, some who just wanted to shout out the answers and couldn't wait to be called on, and some that knew the answer but wouldn't raise their hand- but would offer it up if they were called upon.

Now flash forward a few decades: All those kids are grown up, and they're your customers.

You can probably imagine how those kids who used to just shout out the answer are the ones that always want to let everyone know when they had an amazing experience at a company, or when they feel wronged.

These people make great customers when everything is going great because they'll tell everyone about how much they love your company.

However, when they have a bad experience, they might tell their friends, post a review on Yelp or social sites, or raise the issue directly with the company's customer service department. Or they might do all three. 

Picture those kids who raised their hands but waited patiently for the teacher to call on them- All grown up, they represent customers who will readily give your company valuable feedback, and will go through the appropriate channels you provide to give their praise or make you aware of their concerns.  It's important to make the 'hand raiser' customer type feel as though your company is 'making it easy' to give feedback and takes customer opinions seriously.

If you don't, a truly negative experience with a company can push the 'hand-raiser' customer type towards other outlets, such as posting an inflammatory comment on a social media site, or submitting a lengthy description about where your company went wrong on Yelp.

Now take the students who wouldn't raise their hand, but would answer when called on- Imagine how they react socially to having positive or negative experiences with a company. They probably still don't like to be 'hand-raisers' and volunteer feedback, even if they've had a poor customer experience at a company. 

But, they represent a promising customer segment because if 'called upon' directly, they will engage with your company and give feedback and tell you exactly what they like and dislike about your brand.  If you don't engage directly with this customer type to get feedback on their experience, they're the most likely to stay silent and you'll never know what they think of you.

Even if they have a terrible experience, they're likely to react passively; they won't reach out and ask you to address their issue, but may never return to be a patron or customer of your business. 

After considering those three types of customers, you can imagine that it's easiest to get the most data from the answer-shouting bunch, and you may feel like you know much less about those that need to be 'called upon'.

However, don't let this discourage you- you can begin to create your customer segments using the plethora of data that you already thanks to the answer-shouting bunch.

Make the hand-raisers feel like you're focused on being attentive to their needs- Make direct appeals for feedback in email campaigns, and don't be afraid to be direct when asking them to try your new menu items or check out a new location you've opened. For the customer type that needs to be called upon, you can use incentive-based campaigns to elicit more information from them over time.

Once you factor in the best ways to solicit information from the three different levels of engagement, you're ready to start segmenting further. 

Part 2: Gather Additional Data to Develop More Accurate, Multi-faceted Segments 

As you begin to collect more customer contact information and additional data on who these people are, you will start to see some trends and consistencies across your customer data set.  Perhaps a lot of people found out about you on Facebook. Maybe many of them came to your website last month. Perhaps the most loyal customers often fill out surveys for you. Whatever the case, identifying these segments and maintaining them can mean a huge growth in your sales and strength of your customer relationships. 

Once you create segments, you can send targeted and custom messaging that relates to what that segment cares about. They will appreciate the tailored messaging and you will benefit from them coming and giving you more of their business. 

As a marketer, you may know a lot about one person- they like the cheese dip appetizer, come 1-3 times per week, usually redeems coupons during the dinner service- while, you may know much less about another person- say, just that they usually redeem coupons during the dinner service. 

If you usually send out special offers to 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service', you should keep doing that to promote continual engagement. 

However, to continually improve your segmentation, it will be important for you to continue to learn more about your customers- such as maybe dividing that segment of 'usually redeems coupons during the dinner service' into 2 groups-those who come 0-1 times per week, and those who come 1-3 times per week.

So, you may need to get some more information from customers to create that second segmentation. To get that information from those 'wait to be called on' people, you may want to add-on another offer. Perhaps you offer a 'buy one, get one' coupon if you fill out a survey on your dining habits, that is targeted only to those individuals who 'wait to be called upon' so that you can show them that you value the opportunity to learn more about them.

Thus, the "creating context of engagement" can help you understand what you need to give customers so that they give you more information on themselves in return.

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.

I hated writing in school & you are probably just like me. I can still hear my English teacher demanding a 500 word "essay" -always on some topic I had no interest in.

Content marketing not like writing that "essay" that you got a grade on in high-school. Content marketing is much more important, but also easier - if you follow these 3 simple rules.

Content marketing is of course about being interesting and telling a good story. But much more.

1. Not a new story, but one you've already told and know well.

2. Not any story, but a story with a point.

3. A parable. Which causes people to take action.

And for professionals most of the time it's a business story that describes an important problem that many struggle with or a new one that people need to know more about and solutions that the reader might just need your help with.

Most professionals have at least three interesting business discussions each week with clients, customers and co-workers. This is what you write you about. You know the material and you're excited about already.

Here's some other tips that will help you -

  • Start with a working title - you'll change it anyway

  • Stick with what you know and stories you like best

  • Have a clear call to action - tell readers what they should do next

So take your favorite story turn it into an article and get started.

If you send it to me I'll put it up on www.franchise-info.us and it'll get read, and you will get attention.

We'll make it look pretty & distribute it to the right people.

Put your photo at the top and your LinkedIn business card at the bottom. In fact it'll look just like this article.

If you take a shot at this you might even get readers interested in doing business with you.

Heck you read my article and it was from a conversation I had this week about how hard people find it to write articles to build their business.

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 don't know about round your way ...

But the competition for my takeaway spend is huge.

And nowhere more than amongst the pizza companies.

So when this dropped through my door, it got me thinking.

dom1.jpg

Here's what you see before you get to the menu.

8 offers; lunchtime, early week, all week, online, for families, for individuals, for collection and delivery.

Which one do you think works best?

I have no idea. But I'll bet you 1 thing:

If Domino's marketing department is worth its salt, they're testing every single one.

Because if they're not, they're leaving dough (sorry) on the table.

Now let's take a look at the other side ...

dom2.jpg

So what's good about this side?

Well, here are 2 things I spotted:

  • Prominent offer.

  • Lots of different ways to order - the more ways you give people to get in touch, the more that will.

Although I'd have started with phone, web and shop. Not Facebook and Twitter.

I think they could have shown a better, more enticing pizza though. Don't you?

Compare this pitiful pepperoni with the far more appealing pizza on the front cover.

Looks a lot nicer doesn't it?

And what on earth is the wheelying scooter rider, menacingly waving a pizza box all about?

He's certainly not the chap I want delivering my dinner. Do they actually employ such hooligans?

But the piece on this page which - hands down - wins my wrath is The Domino's Promise.

I can't stand the opening line:

The most insanely delicious pizzas

After all, what does a pizza have to do with losing your marbles?

But at least it is a promise of sorts.

Unlike the rest of the drivel they then write. Such as:

Intrepid delivery drivers

For goodness sake. These people aren't delivering under enemy shelling. Or at risk from snipers.

They're bringing my food to my house. I know people say the area's gone downhill a bit recently ... but intrepid? Really?

Now what about your marketing?

Are you testing offers ... giving people lots of ways to get in touch ...

... or are you banging on about your intrepid delivery drivers?

Maybe you'd like my help?

If you would - and it can be with any part of your marketing - just email me.

You won't get a stream of autoresponder messages. Just me getting in touch with you.

And please remember, you're not committed to anything if you do.

So why not do it right now?

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]

This is a serious subject, so let's cut to the chase...

Does greasing Google's payroll by paying for pay-per-click Adwords impact your organic search rankings?

Abso-100%-lutely!

Now we're not telling you it's right, we're just telling you the facts.

Case in point...

We've been working with a client whose website was hit hard after the recent penguin updates . They dropped from ranking on page 1 for every keyword phrases to page 5, 6, 7 and even higher.

Total disaster!

Thankfully the culprit was identified and eliminated (duplicate pages left from a website change that happened a year before), however the damage was done.

Once your site has lost its rankings foothold, it's harder than ever to reclaim it, and that process takes time. Our organic search efforts had been working, and slowly month after month we were seeing things increase.

However, this wasn't fast enough.

So...we launched an Adwords campaign and....

ALACAZAM!

Page 1 in less than 5 hours.

Organic rankings don't jump that quickly. It doesn't happen. And it certainly doesn't happen with a wide range of keyword phrases all at once.

So....did paying for Adwords boost the organic rankings? Absolutely.

Is paying for Adwords a replacement for organic search marketing? Absolutely NOT!!

Why? Because when you stop greasing Google, your paid ads go away...and without any natural website credibility, your organic rankings will drop.

Where do you want to be? You want to be ranked #1 organically!

However, if you need to get there FAST, and as much as we hate to say so...forking over some dough to Google to speed things up (alongside an organic marketing campaign), could be something to consider.

When you want your website to rocket to the top of search, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk.

Well, Google has done it again. We knew it was coming, however it's here with a vengeance that is bitter indeed.

Penguin 5.0 (or Penguin 2.1 as Google calls it) was released on Friday, and many sites have been impacted.

The truth is that while Google is calling these updates "Anti-Spam" they are actually targeting many sites that are not "spamming" the world of the Internet.

Many sites have spent a great deal of time and money creating and distributing quality content over long periods of time in order to link back to their sites and boost traffic. No cheating, no shortcuts , no black hat techniques.

Unfortunately, many of you are now getting your hand slapped for working so hard to create all that content and get it out there.

If the sites you put content on weren't high-ranking enough, if they had other people using it improperly, all those things now count against you.

The biggest irony of it all??

If you never worked hard to get your site ranked organically - never wrote blogs, never setup Google plus, never used social networks - and ONLY paid Google for your rankings, guess what? Your site is now ranking front and center.

Unintentional? We think not.

Regardless of the fact that Google is fast becoming the closest thing to the Terminator's Skynet we've ever seen (is anyone else a bit afraid of all the power they have?)... the reality is that if your site has been hit, you need to deal with it.

So, how do you go about doing that?

The likely culprit is what Google would call "bad links," and whether these are actually bad or not doesn't matter. Google has deemed them as such. So, they have to be either manually removed or disavowed.

1. The first step is to identify which ones have been identified as "Bad." In order to do that, use Google's webmaster tools. Click here for more information about how to identify bad links. 

The next step is to remove them. There are a few ways to take care of this.

If someone at your company or a firm you were working with manually built these links, then they may be able to be manually take them down.  Easy-peasy.

2. Another option is to contact the webmaster and ask them to remove the links to your site. They may or may not do this, and they may or may not charge you money to do it (which they shouldn't).

3. The third alternative is to Disavow the links using the Google webmaster tool.  Click here for more information on how to disavow links. 

After that is all done, it's likely going to be a waiting game. You may not see the results or an impact on rankings until the next Penguin update.

Is this infuriating? Yes. Is it "fair"? No. Is it reality? Indeed.

If your site has been impacted, for now we recommend that you stop distributing content on outside sites and focus on your own blog and social networking. Then you can re-evaluate after your site gets back up where it needs to be.

Have questions? We're happy to help. Connect with me on LinkedIn below.

If you're a franchise marketer, you know that Google has been making silent changes aimed at encrypting all organic search queries....except for advertising of course.

Some people have said it's Google trying to keep the NSA from spying on us all but most have said it's to increase the usage of their cash cow, Adwords. 

About 2 years ago, Google started encrypting searches for anyone that was logged into Google while they were searching.  

Google's reason was privacy.  

  • Google wanted to block anyone who might actually be listening in on a string of searches.  
  • Google also wanted to block publishers from seeing searches as some of them may have been too "private" to expose. 

Google says....

"We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We're now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in." 

Over the past two years there's been a steady movement up and to the right for the keywords that are "not provided" until recently a huge spike happened. See the chart below courtesy of a site called www.notprovidedcount.com

google-not-provided.png

So what does all this mean to the franchisee or franchisor?  Here are 4 takeaways.

1. Focus on Better Content

Even though secure searches seem aggravating to many people that do SEO, I think it's a move in the right direction.  This is really pushing the industry to focus on producing awesome content and meaningful social connections that truly transcend the keyword focused mentality.  Instead of pumping out 100′s of SEO driven blog posts that have ZERO value for the people reading them, how about you focus on your personas for once and answer some of their toughest questions.

2. Focus on Business Results

Franchise marketers should really be focusing on actual business objectives like local sales or obtaining new franchisees.  The disappearing keyword data is forcing  us, in a good way, to take a look at business results which is ultimately where we should be in the first place. 

3. Double Down on Paid Search or PPC

The "issue" at hand only affects free, organic traffic.  If your franchise uses Google Adwords, you're sitting on a gold mine of data.  I recommend linking your Adwords account to your Google Analytics account and use that data for future projects.

4. Measure Your Referral Traffic

If you're seeing some of your website pages getting more traffic than others (referral traffic from Google), you should be aware of the type of content that's on that page.  It could well be that those are the actual keywords that your prospects are looking for. 

If you want More Customers, Let's Talk about Our Services.

Joan Immediato and Jack Rickenbach are the principals in Aranco Productions. Joan and Jack have attended almost every franchise convention in the last 30 years.

One of the products that Joan and Jack create caught my eye - it is a modern replacement for the business card and 60 second elevator pitch.

They call it the "VID-eCARD™".

Not sure about the name, but it is a short video embedded into what looks like business card. It is a terrific presentation.

Here is Joan to explain herself, on Vimeo site.

Joan Immediato presents Aranco Productions from Aranco Productions on Vimeo.

There are 5 neat uses here:

1. You could have this video hosted on your LinkedIn profile.

2. You could download the file on a memory stick to give to clients, with some supporting written documents.

3. You could use it to practice your elevator pitch.

4. You could use it as replacement for your LinkedIn business card for your Franchise Info articles.

5. You could have it as an app and share it.

Looks very cool & I must get one!

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]

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.

Many franchises have built their websites by creating local pages, which are part of the main franchise website, for each franchise location.

For example: www.franchisbrand.com/locationname.html.

In some cases these local pages reflect content that is unique to that location: specific store hours, location-specific specials, meet the staff of that location, etc.

In many cases, however, much of the content on each of those local pages is the same as the content on other local pages. Perhaps it is a welcome message, an introduction to products or services or some other general greeting for everyone who lands on that location's page.

With recent Google changes, this has become a very problematic issue.

Duplicate content (content that is written in exactly the same way) can have a very negative impact on search engine rankings. This means that if a franchise website is already at the top of local search engine rankings and it continues to have duplicate content on the local pages, rankings will likely drop.

If a franchise is not ranking at the top but is trying hard to get there, it will be a much more difficult process if there is duplicate content.

Considering other content alternatives might be the best option for franchises. Ideally, each location page would be written with unique content. Even if the subject matter were the same, the wording would need to be different.

Taking advantage of this to really craft location pages in a unique way could actually be a great benefit.

Franchises could consider using this opportunity really to highlight what sets each location apart from its competitors in that area.

Consider these thoughts: What makes the local team special? What makes the structure or setup unique and different? What could you show visually with photos or through action videos that would help capture the unique aspects of each location?

Having the franchisees provide input for their own content would help differentiate it as well.

Every franchise location is slightly different from all the others. Highlighting those truly unique aspects is a great place to start differentiating content. Then a simple rewording should do the trick for the rest.

Happy writing.

Content Marketing? Vaffanculo!* Try Discontent Marketing 

Some idiots wrote to me this morning saying "We couldn't find your name on Google" so as to sell me their dubious e-directory. Very clever. Go on Google and find 1.260 million mentions in 1.26 seconds. 

I never cease to wonder at the sloth and stupidity of marketers. 

They just can't be bothered to think. So to take away the pain of thought for corporate tossers and small business dabblers, new fads keep coming, like lumbering number 9 buses. 

The big difference is that the number 9 bus gets you where you want to go. 

These fads don't - and I've lived through them all. 

USP, database marketing - tarted up as CRM - Twitter, double your likes on Facebook, Pinterest and a bloody great stream of Apps. 

I sometimes think commission-only sales people are the only people who understand the real world. No sell, no eat. 

I met two on the train from London to Bristol the other day. They were French, and we shared a few drinks and ideas - plus some suggestions from me about where they could get a good meal. 

They sell incredibly expensive IT equipment - multi-million pound stuff. One said "Make the prospects feel the pain! Twist the knife!". 

I couldn't agree more. 

People buy for emotional reasons - the more emotion the better. Pile it on! 

But what does the Content Marketing Institute tell you? That if you just keep sending out helpful material that will do the trick. 

They say it is "the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent." 

But what does the Content Marketing Institute do? Go look them up. They sell. "Find out more" is their cry. 

Here are some home truths, learned with my money - and God alone knows how many millions of my clients'. 

Just sending out information without asking people to buy is like running ads that don't ask for a response. Bloody stupid. 

If you don't interrupt they don't pay attention. 

People are not thinking when they get your stuff. Even if they are intelligent - which many aren't in the first place. 

The entire premise of Content Marketing is that people don't like being sold to. In research they say they prefer articles and white papers and that stuff. 

What they prefer and what they do have nothing to do with each other. 

What works and what people like are two different things.

What they need and what they think they want are two different things. 

If you are interested in what customers are really like as opposed to high-falutin' horsesh*t for the gullible, let me show you some videos

There you'll see people who understand the realities of business - and see through the fads

*Very useful expression when infuriated by idiots. Look it up if not easily shocked.

Consumers don't get why brands will spend  lots of money to talk at them with smartphone ads, but yet spend no real money on customer service.  Why talk if you don't listen?

Most days it can be hard for a working professional to take off the "business" hat and approach stats from a true consumer approach. To the unsuspecting American, it sounds great that companies are spending more and more on digital marketing budgets to enhance the user experience, save paper, and increase the focus on continuous innovation in the mobile space.

According to an article written by Mark Walsh for Media Post, Annual digital marketing budgets, on average, amounted to 2.5% of a company's revenue in 2012 and will grow 9% this year. The majority of companies spend between 10% and 50% of their marketing budget on digital efforts, with an average of 25%.

From a consumer perspective, you see all that money being spent and think, "Wow, this 'going mobile' thing sounds pretty good for the economy, and certainly a sign of a stronger marketplace than a year ago!" And, from the consumer facing side of these stats, it's true- the more "screens" that we have to interact with, the more "screens" that marketers need to be present, and prominent.

Back to the marketing professional's point of view, it is stressful trying to put your best foot forward when suddenly you have two paths to walk down at the same time. Public or private, large or a startup, independent or franchised, businesses are all faced with the challenge of how to approach the mobile opportunities ahead.

For a fifth of companies, digital has already been incorporated into each function within marketing broadly, with budgets no longer broken out separately. The Gartner study also made a point to indicate that digital marketing spend is becoming more difficult to estimate as digital and traditional techniques merge. "We expect this trend to continue growth as areas such as second-screen TV, social TV and QR codes integrate with traditional channels," stated the report. This is already apparent considering Macy's new engagement campaign, which has rolled out with mobile touch-points with a traditional media twist.

According to a Mobile Commerce Daily article written by Lauren Johnson in March, Macy's is using a combination of QR codes, SMS and mobile Web as part of its partnership with NBC's "Fashion Star" television show to not only give consumers a chance to enter a sweepstakes, but also build up the retailer's mobile database.

The sweepstakes is part of a bigger campaign from Macy's to connect with TV viewers via their mobile devices this year. "The mobile strategy should be consistent with their overall digital marketing strategy," said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta. "Access to a brand's portal through mobile simply improves the amount of consumer engagement time on the site and allows for better conversion with real time marketing and sales opportunities," she said.

Why, then, is their store feedback survey so arcane?

Users have demonstrated that they prefer mobile for their communications- but they see it as a two way street, where as many businesses are still seeing it as a one-way communication vehicle- talking at their audience, but not remotely prepared to open the conversation up completely.

What does Macy's mobile campaign really say to consumers? Well, it says buy from us and leave us alone. That's the kind of strategy that insurance agencies get "dinged" for in TV commercials all the time.

The obvious response most could argue on behalf of Macy's would be, well, the technology must not quite be there yet for surveys to be totally mobile, so it must be an expensive investment and require a long transition project.

However, that doesn't mean that's true. For example, systems like ours here at On The Spot are built to run mobile surveys- with user experience as the focus. Surveys like ours cost around $2/day and can be accessed via SMS text, QR codes and mobile web. In fact, two in five companies say they are realizing savings from digital marketing compared to traditional methods(,) according to Gartner.

Sure, many consumers may not yet realize how readily accessible this technology is to businesses, but soon they will, and they will realize where their retailers place their digital budgets- and more importantly, where they don't.

According to Gartner, "Reinvesting savings into digital marketing activities is a smart move. And it's a relatively new activity in a corporate culture where technology has primarily been used in recent years to cut costs." So, the test is where you will put your cost savings to good use. The question is, will you fill an existing void in your mobile strategy mix, or continue to spend your budget on strictly sales campaigns?

This new digitally enlightened consumer is now able to see right through a company's social media façade. They still agree that Facebook is a nice tool for people to share their thoughts, but everyone is now wiser about its actual capabilities for connection within the company hierarchy.

About a third (34%) of businesses went outside for help in managing their presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. So, it's not really enough to tell people to share their opinions on Facebook- they know it's not going to get to someone in operations who actually could fix the mislabeled sale items that same day. There's no chance for the company to make any actionable use of the data they receive through Facebook.

Macy's would be able to get away with ignoring the location-specific importance of their customers' opinions if they had not already proven in another campaign this past year that they have the means to be location-specific and relevant to consumers at the store level when they want consumers to buy something.

According to Johnson's Mobile Commerce Daily article, the retailer enhanced its iPhone app with Black Friday-specific features that were based on a consumer's local store. Via the app, consumers were able to find Black Friday specials, create shopping lists and pinpoint where a special can be found in a local store.

So, let's assume for a minute that Macy's just isn't aware that their customer engagement strategies lack, well, engagement. Let's assume with a sub-par customer feedback strategy, Macy's is also stuck with minimal insight from real consumers and doesn't "see" that their mobile strategy really comes off as being a one-sided approach to customer engagement.

Think about your own company for a moment- do you emphasize customer loyalty? Do you think a company can get too "big" to care about loyalty?

Hopefully, you'd disagree with the latter statement, since this is one area where we all know there is a payout for "buying in" to a strong loyalty strategy.

According to Ms. Troutman in her statement in Mobile Commerce Daily, "Loyalty programs are a valid and significant method of increasing the average ticket and shop frequency. The use of mobile in this process with all of the unique benefits will improve customer engagement(,)", she continued. "The key is how a brand harmonizes loyalty with offers."

That's about as clear and simple as it can get, but I challenge you to really dwell on that last sentence as you think about the decisions you make about using mobile in your everyday arsenal of customer communication and loyalty programs.

When it comes to mobile, the determining factor that will either elevate or depreciate a brand's overall digital image, is how well the brand is able to harmonize their loyalty reinforcement efforts along with their sales promotion offers.

In case you missed our webinar "Integrated Digital Marketing for Franchise Systems", co-hosted by Google, we wanted to give a recap of the great content outlining why integrated digital strategies are so important and how they can be developed to achieve a balance between the brand and the franchisees. 

This approach is something Location3 Media calls "Franchise impact, Brand intact".

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Although many of us are familiar with online usage stats, it is important to revisit them frequently because the landscape changes so often. 

Here are several statistics about online marketing usage that are great to keep in mind as your brand is determining how to approach investing in digital marketing.

1) People are constantly looking for new information online.  Billions of searches are done each day.  16% of the searches have never been conducted before. (Google)

2) Shopping starts online with 94 percent of consumers researching products online before buying.  Customers rely on online sources for local information. (Google)

3) Spend on digital has grown by 10 percent in the past five years.  (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Wilkofsky Gruen Associates)

Integrated Digital Programs

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Integrated digital programs allow advertisers to reach customers on their individual path to purchase. 

Today's path to purchase is fluid rather than linear, it is consumer directed versus brand directed and it requires guidance from multiple sources.  Managing the path to purchase for franchise systems requires a combined effort between franchisors and franchisees. 

Some of these efforts include:

1) Providing store locations with marketing plans and approved branding collateral for individual use

2) Managing local listings by centralizing at corporate to ensure consistency and accuracy of data

3) Providing franchisees a website framework and CMS that allows for localized custom content

4) Developing a centralized social media strategy that ensures a consistent brand voice, and is supported by store-level voice

Franchisees can help manage the path to purchase by utilizing the tools provided by corporate including vendor relationships and technology resources.

Paid Search & Display

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As we mentioned, billions of searches are done each day with 94 percent of searchers starting their research online.  Search also increases the efficiency of TV, print and radio between 3 and 10 percent.  Here are a few other reasons why paid search is a must-have strategy for franchise systems:

1) Search drives offline conversions. 89 percent of shopping starts online while 93 percent of conversions happen offline

2) Search can be customized to fit individual franchisees including keywords, ad copy, landing pages and most importantly geographic targeting

3) Call tracking is a must have for franchise systems.  We typically see that 70-90 percent of all actions completed from paid search are phone calls

Along with search, the combination of display and search campaigns delivers a 155 percent increase in search activity, speeds up the purchase funnel five times and 27 percent of users perform a search query instead of clicking on a banner.

Social / SEO / Content / Design

625,000 people join Google+ everyday and the Google +1 button is used more than 5 million times a day.  In case you didn't have enough reasons to upgrade your social, SEO, content, and design strategy, this rapidly growing product is the perfect push over the edge.  Here are a few additional reminders about the power of these integrated strategies:

1) Google+ is a megaphone for your brand allowing you to add credibilitiy and enhance visibility on the Google Display Network, Google Search, YouTube and mobile channels.

2) SEO has three components that need to be addressed in every strategy: website optimization, content creation, and content distribution.  Integrating SEO into the path to purchase for franchise systems requires the franchise system and the franchisors to hold up their responsibilities in each section.

3) As the worlds of design, SEO, content, and collide, findability requires as choreographed effort. The bottom line is that a website cannot be designed without planning your SEO and content strategies at the same time.  The are not separate entities.

4) Content marketing is educating and inspiring people enough to do business with you.  It's not about you anymore and your content needs to engage and inspire your customers.

Overall, the success of your integrated digital marketing plan starts with your customers.  Learning about their path to purchase and shaping a strategy to meet them at all points along the way will gain and keep your customers.  Managing the path between the system and the franchisees will empower the individual locations while protecting the brand.

Do you have any success stories with your franchise system and integrated digital marketing that you'd like to share?  If so, we'd love to hear them.  Also, look for the recorded version of our webinar to be ready in the next few days.

 

One of my key suppliers sent me this video over the weekend and it got me thinking. . .  how do you market for a moment in time?

How do we obtain the attention of those we wish to influence and have them focus, to understand the value that we are trying to deliver in a world that is full of so many distractions?

How do we as marketers help develop a strategy to help people understand how the product or service we represent matters in the every day life of those we wish to communicate with?

How do we go about understanding what is relevant to the audience we wish to influence and tailor our messaging in a language that they not only understand, but can relate to?

Marketing has focussed too much over the last number of decades in creating noise that shouts above the others to the point where everyone has become deaf and numb to the shouting.    It is our belief that to influence decisions, moving forward, marketers must take the time to understand how various segments of society wish to be communicated with and and in what tone.   By listening first, analyzing critically and then developing strategies of engagement that are real and relevant, marketers have a much better chance of developing relationships with their audience that lead to long term return on investment.

Let's work together to Get YOU Noticed! in a way that your intended audience can relate to.

 The post How do you market for a moment in time? appeared first on CMYK Solutions Inc..

 

It never ceases to amaze me the creativity that exists in the world and innovative ways that people have of telling their stories.

One of the companies in our industry, IClick, who sells custom USB drives, created this video to tell their story. It is far more about showing you their culture, brand and mission than it is how they do what they do every day, but even that is weaved into the story.

Take the time to understand what YOUR STORY should be.

Craft the message in a way that is meaningful and will be remembered long after you leave the room.

BE REMARKABLE and find a way to Get YOU Noticed!

We live in a world that is full of marketing noise and competing mediums that are all bombarding an ever so jaded consumer.

They have mail boxes full of what marketers perceive as campaigns and they perceive as SPAM.  Social media has become such a labyrinth that it is hard to keep messaging consistent across platforms and therefore brand confusion becomes reality.    

Mass media does not target audiences in a way that is meaningful anymore and the app that you create is designed far more to show your audience you are innovative than provide any real ongoing marketing or branding opportunities.

So what is the next medium that will help you cut through the noise and have your brand perceived as valuable and your call to action acted upon?

Technology has reached a point where this process is a viable option for not just the Fortune 50 businesses. Consider the impact this will have on your customers when opened. Yes, per piece it is a more expensive option than traditional direct mail, but the ROI in terms of conversion is much higher.

Consider this is a tactic to go after a specific vertical and segment of the market. Those to whom you want to demonstrate the higher value, higher margin aspects of your business.

If this is a market segment you are looking to focus on and have the product or service that lends itself to create high value creative, let us help Get YOU Noticed!

We stumbled across a site that is a bit interesting - if you're wondering what your social media connections think of you, specifically those you're connected to on Facebook or Linkedin, wonder no more!

Survey Report is a free* program that allows you to anonymously survey your connections on LinkedIn or Facebook. A brief explanation is below:

In looking over the site, it only takes a few simple steps:

1. Login with LinkedIn or Facebook

2. You're set up with a basic survey for people to take

3. You decide who to send it to, and the site takes care of the rest.

If you watch the video closely, you'll see a quick glance at some analytical reports that will be generated on your behalf, letting you know at a glance what people think of you. However, reading their FAQ's, it seems that they admit the response rate is low - the word free has a * next to it earlier in the post because, while you can get as many survey responses as possible, you can only see 5 with the free version.

Never fear though, the site assures you that generally speaking, people only get an average of 7 responses.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try it and see what happens. Signing up was fairly easy - I chose to login with Facebook as to not bother my professional contacts. I set the permission for the app to "only me" just in case; I have no idea of what they may post, so I'll keep that private for now. It also wanted access to my custom friends lists.

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From there, I'm given the free and paid options - looks like you get (of course) a lot more with the paid version. But, I'm cheap and a bit skeptical, so I chose the free version.

Okay, I'm seeing a whole new world here. In addition to the survey, it looks like I have an option to take a few quizzes on my own, including an IQ test, and emotional quotient (EQ) test, and a "what job best suits me" quiz. I also have a face recognition test - I thought maybe this would survey my contacts to see if they recognized me, but instead it shows me people making faces and asking me to rate what they're feeling.

So there's some fun in the site too. I'm happy I chose "only me" as the visibility choice - if I had started taking these quizzes, my results could have been published on my Timeline. Imagine if I had logged in with LinkedIn. These quizzes are not something I would want professional contacts to see - it's none of their business what job suits me best, nor do they need to see that I'm taking quizzes in the middle of a workday!

Back to the survey......they looked at the number of connections I have on Facebook and suggested a number of responses I'll need to get good data. You can see this below:

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Underneath the box it lists all of my Facebook contacts - I can choose to send the invite to anyone from the list. I do think the text is a bit misleading in the invitation though.

I'm not sure if it worked. I chose two of my Facebook friends and hit the send button, but it wanted to post a link on my wall. I closed out of that and a window popped up asking me if I wanted to share on LinkedIn too. I declined and it said that everything was set up, and I should wait for 7 days to view the results.

I have a feeling it didn't go out; I will have to check with my two connections to see if they got anything.

In the meantime, I may play around with it some more to see if I can get anyone to bite. While I can see the idea behind this site, I'm not sure this is the way to go about it. As I said, I don't think this is something I would bother my LinkedIn connections with and it seems like something that others may not be comfortable filling out, even though its anonymous.

If you're curious enough to check it out, share your experiences with us! If you've already used this site and know of some benefits, we'd love to hear them!

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 today's world of marketing, data is king.   The more information we have at our fingertips the better we can narrow the offer so that each person marketed to can feel that they are being talked to directly.

More than 10 years ago we were creating a birthday card direct mail program for a casino, the response rate, based upon variable offers was consistently in the 40+ % range.  Why?   DATA!!!!!!!!!!   We knew when these people came in, how long they came for, what types of games they played, how long they spent playing and how much they won or lost on a per visit basis.    If we were able to tie husband and wife loyalty cards together, the data was stronger and so was the response based upon being able to provide an offer that benefited both parties.

Think about how much information is available to you, as a business, if you take the time to collect and analyze it.    How much better could you forecast trends and pre-empt customers from shopping at your competition through timely marketing offers?

There is a story of a certain car company that "found" the leasing information for one of their competitors.   They not only had names and addresses, but they had colour, make of car and when lease was up.    The story goes that you would receive a direct mail piece that would have your name on it and it would say, wouldn't you rather be in car brand X.    On the front would be a version of the latest model year of the type of car you owned, but their model.  I.e.,  if you had a red two door soft top, that would be the picture which would be on your postcard.    The call to action was strong and so was the response rate.    In other words:  great data +  great offer + great marketing program = great ROI!!!!!!!

Here is a great example that was done by a hospital group in the US.    They realized that there were other places for potential clients to go when they needed medical services, so they found a way to make it easy for people to think of them.

This is a variably printed fridge magnet.   70000 + were produced, each one has a different map that takes you from YOUR house to the closest facility that they own.    Think of what this does to the end consumer.   They have a visual on their fridge at any time that shows how easy it is to get medical help when needed.  Notice how each magnet is unique to the address it is being mailed to?  This is a true value add!

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Think of the options that are available using this technology and the variety of different businesses that could attract long term clients using this medium.    Yes, the cost per piece is higher than other mediums, but so is the return on your investment.    If you have a high life time value of every customer acquired, this is a marketing tactic that should definitely be part of your overall marketing strategy.

The next step in this process is the development of PURLS,  Personal URLs.   With this technology, you have driven your customer to a website that is specifically designed for them.   It allows you to cater your information to their individual needs and provide each and every client with offers that are relevant to them.

So take the time to understand what data you have on your clients, what data you would like to have and how that proper use of data can help develop your brand long term and see how we can Get YOU Noticed!

The post What kind of information do you have on your customers? 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.)