Monday, July 25, 2011

To engage or not to engage with our customers.

Well, why wouldn't you? Have you realized that you spend money with people you like, services you trust and businesses that simply make you just feel good. There is this pizza place in town that we go to regularly. Within five blocks of this place there are at least 10 places that sell similar items. Yet, we choose this place. True the pizza is great, the salads big and the lasagna always perfect. But the real reason we call ourselves regulars is how we feel when we go in. We feel welcomed. We are always greeted with a friendly hello.. The owners always are eager to catch up with us. "How was your trip?" "Did you like the rolls you bought last week" "How is your daughter doing?". One day the owner sat down with me and shared with me his chicken parm recipe! They are genuine about it too. And it's not just us. They talk to all of their customers. They take the time to engage.

It's seems like a given but I do believe we somehow as businesses were so concentrated on making money we forgot about what was right in front of us. Relationships. The customers who we do business with. The partners who trust us. The community we serve. Get out there and do some engaging. Talk, listen, connect. Challenge yourself to get to know people in a different way. Ask questions. Learn about what is important to them. Stop trying to “do business” and just “be” with your customers. Social Media and Email Marketing gives us tools to both talk and listen. Do both. Say thanks, be generous with your expertise and have some fun! Your customers will never forget!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Small Business Advantage

Yep,small business has a huge advantage over larger organizations when it comes to social engagement. Truly. You can actually ENGAGE. If you attended one of my workshops you probably heard this story. It's an important one that truly illuminates my very point.

Last December 1st I looked at the calendar and realized it was the day of the first night of Hanukkah. Now as many of my Jewish friends can tell you, it was very early this year. I was not prepared, at all! I ran straight out to a very large and very well-known toy store, situated in the heart of Metro New York. A Metro with a multitude of ethnicities and religions. I digress. After filling up my shopping cart with eight lovely gifts for a very lovely child, I made my way over to the gift wrap department. I looked carefully through the Santa wrap, the Mistletoe wrap, the red and green tree wrap(you know what I'm talking about) and could not find one roll left of Hanukah wrap. I find the Manager and ask
"Where is the Hannukah wrap?"
His reply, "We don't have any."
"Excuse me, " I say "You are sold out already?"
"No, we never carried it." He shrugged his shoulders as if to say "Yeah I know that is crazy". O'k, something doesn't feel right about this.

I head home and hop on Facebook and find this particular very large toy retailer. I "Like" their page and then write "Hey "very larger toy retailer" what's up. No Hanuakah wrap in one of your stores. Just purchased eight nights worth of gifts. Hope you can help." I wait and wait. Oh, someone else comments, "yeah me too." I continue to wait. Checking in from time to time to see if I got some feedback, an email, maybe an I'm sorry, we understand. Not a thing. I go on my own Facebook account and tell my o friends what's going on. They tweeted about it, commented on aforementioned toy store's wall and still hours later absolutely nothing. At 9p that night..."Happy Hannukah from all of us at XYZ." That was it. Not a word about this oversight.

I realized something that probably happened. Their Social Media Manager had to go to the Marketing Director who directed them to the Diversity department, then to HR, then to Legal, then to PR, then back to Marketing for a final sign-off. All those folks had to get involved to make sure they defused a possible sensitive situation. You small business owner do not have to do that. You can engage situations like this right away. You are flexible. You know your own brand and how to protect it. You also know how to make your customers happy and feel satisfied they are being heard.

So what to do:
-Remember the customer is always right
-Don't defend
-You can comment online, but also take it offline, and email, a phone-call
-React as quickly as you can
-Don't be afraid to share with your other customers what happened and how it was resolved.

Bottom line, folks are going to be talking about us. More good then not so good. Just in case a situation arises that might not be so positive, don't resist. Embrace it to show your customers that you do care. Thats what matters most. Plus, their honest feedback can help your businesses and brands grow stronger by fixing things that actually may have been broken!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What my father taught me about business.

When I was growing up my parents worked together in the insurance business. They were small business owners. At one point they even had a home office. My mom balanced mommy-hood well before it was in style. They were both extremely hardworking. My father handled most of the new business and client service. Mom, seemed to do all the financials and paperwork (pre-computers so all by hand).

My father in particular taught me the importance of service and relationship. I remember the phone ringing during dinner. Clients calling in with claims or with questions. My father running off to help them. He would work as if his own home flooded or car was damaged. Because of the way my father was, many of his clients stayed with him throughout his entire career. Dad is now in his early '80's. He retired just a few years ago. It is interesting to me to think about how his business would be different with all of our new technologies. Or would it really be?

Our social media and email marketing strategies are based on relationship building. Right? We meet someone now. We want to get to know them. We connect on Facebook (or perhaps we met them for the first time on Facebook); invite to network on LinkedIn and then maybe follow them on Twitter. We ask them to join our mailing list and then send them our newsletters. Now we know that if we follow these steps we will get business from them. Right? WRONG says I, the "digital marketing expert." yes, these tools are there to facilitate the building of relationship but you need to be doing what my father Aaron Caplan was doing 40 years ago.

1. He really really cared.
2. He provided exceptional service. And not just once. All the time.
3. He was honest and sincere. Trustworthy.
4. He provided genuine value.

Dad sold insurance. "Here's your policy. Here's your coverage. Here's the number to call when you have a claim. Goodbye, good luck." That would have been easy. But, no. He knew what that coverage meant to people. He knew that what his product was providing was security. A good night's sleep. A parent feeling comfortable. He focused on that. The value he was offering.

Dad is blown away by all the new technology. He recently told me that if he was in business today he would be doing monthly e-newsletters filled with resources, tips and information. He loves the idea of being able to really stay top of mind as a partner. A resource.

As social and e-marketers you need to revamp your strategy now. The first thing you need to do before you set up that newsletter or Facebook page is to ask yourself these three questions-

1. Are you providing incredible service?
2. Do you have customers today who would sing your praises.
3. Do you really care about what kind of value you are delivering?

If you can't say yes to all three of these then STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING ONLINE.

Get back to basics. Fine tune your relationships and customer service. Social media and email marketing will not work unless people really want a relationship with you. Take my father's advice (I still do once in awhile)..go above and beyond. That's the beginning of a great social media marketing strategy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Can you not listen and have a relationship?

The other day while "virtually" working (Actual meaning: while working virtually from a nearby cafe") I eased dropped on two young twenty-somethings complaining about their boyfriends. "He just doesn't get it." The one said to the other. She continued, "I told him I just wasn't ready to meet his mother. I told him I didn't want to spend time with his friends. I asked him to please call me when he gets home after a night out with his buddies. He just doesn't listen. He never hears what I have to say. It is really annoying." She was so upset. Literally red in the face. Her friend calmly said to her "How can you have a relationship with this guy if he doesn't listen?" There was silence. She had stumped her friend. In response, a few seconds later our complaining gal changed the subject. I guess she was afraid to face the truth of what her relationship really looked like or where it was headed. As I was listening I realized that there was a great lesson in all of this for marketers. We all hear about relationship marketing. The importance of developing trust and connection with her customers and prospects. I know many that feel they are doing a great job of this. Many are doing e-newletters and set up Facebook Pages for their businesses to connect with others. They are posting fun facts and sales offerings. They have vibrant websites with lots of great infomation and their sales people are in the "face" of their customers and prospects daily with special offers and discounts That's great. But missing from all of this is a true strategy and committment to actually LISTENING to what is on the minds of those they wish to have a relationship with. Let's all stop for a second. Stop talking and listen to those we wish to be in partnership with. Instead of posting an offer on Facebook try posting a question. Ask your "Fans" what's on their mind instead of telling them what is on yours. Use your email communications to encourage discussion. Send a poll or survey to get feedback. Watch your email click through reports to see what your receipents are interested in. Follow your customers on Twitter and listen to what they are saying. The more we listen, the more we learn. Learn more about your customers and prospects. Your listening will be greatly appreciated and at the end of the day you will end up having a much stronger relationship.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Anxious are we?

With so much converation these days about how small business
needs to be taking advantage of all the digital tools out there it made me wonder how much digital media anxiety there is out there?

This week I spoke to a group of small biz owners. It was a mixed group. About half were doing something. The other half nothing at all. The group that is doing something is "really doing something" ....blogging. But with mixed results. One guy ( who I shall call "Mr. I have been in business for thirty years and why do I need to change a thing") looked as though he wanted to chug the coffee pot at me while I spoke about ways
to integrate social networking and email marketing. Afterwards he cornered me
"Help. I am overwhelmed and truly do not know how I can do all of this. Who has all this time?

Digital marketing anxiety.Like any sort of anxiety we do too much without really thinking or we are just paralyzed and do not do a thing.
So call me yout digital marketing therapist. I won't prescribe any heavy duty meds but swallow these three things and tell me if they help.

1. First take some time to figure out what the heck it is your actually trying to accomplish by even getting started with this. Please do not tell me that you are doing this because everyone else is. Have some clear objectives in mind..generate prospects and referrals; plug my special and sales; be able to get to know my customers. There are tons of reasons. I want you to start by really being aware of what yours is.
2. You do not HAVE be doing it ALL. Find what works for you.
Working for you means mainly what fits your goals and personality the best. It is not about spreading yourself too thin. It is about.utilizing your valuable time most effectively. And enjoyably. So do some research and learn a little bit about all the vehicles out there and how to use them the right way.
3. Do not feel behind the learning curve
This is new to all of us. We are all learning something new everyday. And tomorrow there will always be something else to learn. And we will.

So as a famous sneaker once said...just do it.

For more advice comment below or email me at
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lessons from Martin

I spend hours on Facebook weekly. I have reconnected with my entire high school class, found out things I shouldn't know about my seventeen year old step-daughter and teenage daughter, and have been scolded by my mother for making typos in my status update. I have "stalked" the pages of old crushes and heard from old loves. It's been fun. I have over 500 friends and have lots of conversation on my wall. My own business page, that's another story. I get stuck.

One of my co-workers Martin is my friend on Facebook. I don't see him often as we work in different offices. I actually only met him a few times live in person. Yet, I feel like he is a good friend. I check his Facebook page every day. In fact I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

I realized, Martin has taught me several good lessons about personal social networking that can most definitely be applied to business social networking.

1. Be yourself. Martin has a great sense of humor. He shares it in his writing and with the content he shares. I am getting to know him.

2. Engage your followers. Martin certainly does. Blog postings, You Tube clips, photographs-he knows his friends, he knows what they will find interesting and he shares that stuff.

3. Be consistent. Martin is updating his page daily...quite often. It's exciting because it's like there is always something going on.

4. Make your friends/followers feel safe to leave comments. Martin always does. There are always folks having conversation on his wall because Martin has created a safe area to do so. A group of like-minded individuals having conversation.

5. Be a resource. Martin absolutely does this. Whether it's a hot news topic, or the cupcake contest at work, Martin is my go to guy. I always know I can find something about the particular item on his page.

Bottom line, if Martin were a brand name, I'd be sold. If he were a restaurant, I'd be celebrating my birthday there. If he were an Association, I'd be a member. I'm going to take all my personal face book energy and start applying it to business....sans my mother's grammatical critiques!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you think Social Networking is just for kids?

It hit me the other day that some marketers of a certain generation aren't paying enough attention to what is going on in the Social media world. "Ahh, that Facebook is crap!" "What's a twit; tweet: tw...t anyway" "Email is for spammers." What a missed opportunity. As advertising vehicles have changed and grown, I've yet to see one completely replace the other. They just evolve. And that is what is happening now. Marketers big and small must take a serious look at each marketing vehicle available to them. Not to do so is quite frankly simply laziness. Never make assumptions!

But where do you really start. It begins with understanding who you are trying to reach. What platforms they are on and how they are using them. Then, make sure you understand the best practices for each vehicle you are looking at. Also, everything is changing and changing quickly. Commit to weekly self-education as well!