‘Social Media’

Now that is a term that confuses, frightens, angers and generally irritates that hell out of too many people. (And I don’t blame you for any of those feelings.)

But let me pose a question that you should try think about in your business.

The Background

An American traveling to Toronto arrived by Canada’s Porter Airlines. This chap was seriously impressed with Porters’ service and sent out a note via Twitter how great that service was. (For full size image click here)

Social Media

But?

But here is the thing. I was not being fair when I opened this up with just the words ‘an American’.

That ‘American’ was Mr. Peter Shankman. If you don’t know of Mr. Shankman, he publishes a very popular newsletter titled Help A Reporter Out or HARO, that connects journalists with possibles sources for articles they are writing. That newsletter, (at least the last I heard) has about a hundred thousand readers. Oh and Twitter? as of this writing just over ninety-one thousand people follow Mr. Shankman there.

The SMB Takeaway

Mr. Shankman had a great experience with Porter airlines and chose to let close to 100,000 people know of it. On its own? great (and free!) word of mouth advertising.

But what if Mr. Shankman has been seriously ticked off by your business?

Would you even know if someone told one hundred thousand other people that your business or service  sucks?

Would you even have a clue that a possibly momentous event just happened?

Answer that question. And ask yourself if maybe you should be listening.

As I stated in the opening sentence, I don’t blame you for the confusion or frustration that the term ‘social media’ can give rise to. But sometimes? Ignorance is not bliss.

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Book Review: ReWork

August 5, 2010

I recently read ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals.ReWork

(published by Crown Books ISBN 9781407062853)

Let me say it; A must read for every entrepreneur and SME business manager! I say that because to effectively cover this book – I would have to rewrite it all here word for word!

Rather than being written as a lecture or treatise, each chapter is a loose federation of points, with each point dedicated to one thought, and each thought is a only a couple of pages.

Some of these lessons you have heard before, for example, on Competitors; Who cares what they are doing?

But under Promotion; Out teach your competition is one example of brilliance. Or on Progress; Throw less at the problem

You may not agree with every point. But if you have to defend your argument – you win both ways.

We humans are vain.

I know the term is fairly negative and synonymous with conceit, but admit it! most of us get a thrill from seeing images of ourselves or our names somewhere.

You could call it our desire for that 15 minutes of fame, perhaps it is just seeing our name in print, I don’t think it matters what we call it, the result is usually the same.

So work with it!

How you work with it may vary depending on your organization size. But that little bit of human vanity may be something that we should not ignore.

How?

For smaller businesses, take a look at this website sample. This smaller business has put photographs of customers on their website for a few years now, but now they are even adding the ability for their customers to add their own images.

If a customer puts their own photograph there – you can bet that at least family and friends are going to be referred to it! One of those family or friends just might say;  hey! I they had a great time, we should check it out….

For larger SME’s that exact idea may not work for you. But how about internal motivation? employee engagement?

You have an internal company newsletter or intranet site – how about a quick picture accompanying that successful training program completion (they do call the concept recognition after all)

The SMB Takeaway

Don’t underestimate the power of the human ego

This post is the next in my occasional series introduced in this post titled; IT In Marketing.

The short summary – this series documents a pretty typical smaller business that does not have a marketing staff, and the relatively simple changes that can be made that will improve the website part of your marketing efforts. For the last episode, click here.

Onwards

I had a great conversation with Glenn Schmelzle, unlike myself, he is a professional in marketing. Glenn blogs about marketing and technology on his Marketing Whats New blog.

First, he gave me a good lecture on some ideas that I had neglected to think about!

Now, in my own defense, Glenn did have one excellent question though that I had already though about and could answer with at least reasonable intelligence.

What am I measuring?Measuring Results

There is an old old saying; If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

And any work on your website is no different, you need to know where you are going, and how you will measure that you are getting there.

I need to know what is being truly measured by the work I am doing. How do I know if I am actually improving anything? – because If you are measuring nothing – you never know what you have actually achieved.

In this case?

Since I was starting from zero, my measurements for this first stage of redeveloping our website were really modest.

In one of the earlier posts in this series,  I documented that we were invisible. If you used a search engine to look for products in our space, you  could not  find our website. The only way you found us was if you actually searched for some portion of our company name.

From that I could infer that this meant that people were using Google as a phone book – Google our name then click the link that leads to our contact information. Not the best for new business!

Two simple measurements

So my initial measurements?

Measurement #1 is simply that when people search via Google, Yahoo or Bing for information in the area in which we compete, that we begin to be found.

Measurement #2 When people do find us, it is not simply a one page click – Google our name – then click the contact page for the phone number. In other words I want to show that as people begin to find our website, that they are taking a few minutes to actually read up about our product, service etc.

It is still early – but both of these measurements are beginning to improve.

Photo Credit Darrren Hester via flickr

I talked with a chap that related the following story;

A B2B manufacturer wanted to provide some channel information to its independent retailers.I did not pry into the details, but I believe they wanted to introduce new products or product lines.

To do this, the vendor set up a Web Conference. Simply put, web conferencing allows you to stream audio and video meeting materials live over the Internet, these tools also allow conference listeners to type questions into the conferencing software  or provide input to the people that are hosting the conference.

All in all – web conferencing is a pretty decent way to disseminate information without incurring huge travel costs.

But can you see the problem here?

These independent retailers are this vendors customers. How do you think they felt about this web conference?

A guess?

I was told they were furious.

They were furious because that vendor did not think about them as customers. They were furious the vendor had such a poor knowledge of its own market.

The reason for their anger?

Like many smaller business, these customer retailers have varying levels of technology literacy.

And?

Some of these customers still hand wrote receipts on carbon paper forms!

Some had PC’s, but no Internet connection.

In essence this organizations customers had a well deserved feeling of being left out.

As I mentioned above – I have no issue with web conferencing, but I do have an issue with hanging a bunch of your customers out to dry because you never bothered to understand them.

How could they have done this differently?

How about before the event communications offering a recording of the event on DVD (or even VHS! since if carbon paper is still in use..)

The SMB Takeaway

Technology is a tool. Only one tool. In marketing, or service consider which tool or tools is best for your market.

There was an animated discussion on Twitter this past Tuesday about what too often seems to a bane of our existence; Customer service as delivered through call centers.

To start, let me state that as small to medium businesses, if we are committed to good customer service, I believe we have an advantage that the big companies don’t. Simply put, we are closer to the front lines and customer needs.

And IT can be a linchpin to support your customer service efforts.

Sure, as this example I wrote about shows, IT can help your customer service in both the pre-sales and sales processes, but for this post I just want to follow up on after sales customer service. After sales customer service usually translates into the word support because something is not working correctly, or not understood. In other words; Help Me!!!

I also want to leave this in a Business to Business (B2B) context, not business to consumer (B2C) because that is the majority of my experience.

With that out of the way, we know that supporting your product or service can be costly.Customer Service

Statistics show that first line telephone service can cost up to $36.00 per call, and that amount goes up if escalation to another tier of service is required.

Looking at that number, many businesses then make one mistake; Customer Service costs that? lets reduce!

But there is a better way to look at it.

Try asking; What is it costing our customer? By that I mean what is the value they have placed on your product or service. Is it differentiated? or a commodity? How is this time and effort asking questions and getting this fixed costing them?

That expectation of value is what you need to look at when planning customer service strategy for your product or service. As an example, if you sell me recycled toner cartridges for printers, my value of the product may say that a quick replacement of a defective cartridge is excellent customer service.

But if I spend six figures? My perceived value changes, and you need to accommodate that.

This post will be the first in a short series, this one will deal with lower perceived value products, the next will dive into more higher perceived value issues.

And part two in customer service is the human element

One of the common refrains that were voiced during  that Twitter chat was a simple theme; people want to feel like they have been heard, that there is a reason, or an answer to their problems. Even if there is no solution that will make your customer 100% satisfied (sorry, that unit does not work in 30 feet of water) they will be even less satisfied with you if they just get no response.

So how can you use IT to help both the human and cost element?

One of the easiest customer service objective for SME’s is Call Avoidance.

No, I don’t mean hide your phone number or ‘Dump the Chump’ games. I mean you have a Website, use it! Add a section for frequently asked questions. Add common customer service issues and known problems.

Love them or hate ’em, Microsoft is a master at this. If you have an error in some Microsoft product and search their Website for an answer, you may find a technical bulletin that contains information that explains;

STATUS
Microsoft has confirmed that this is a problem in the Microsoft products that are listed in the “Applies to” section

To resolve this problem……

In some cases that message will tell you that it won’t be fixed until the next version of the product.

While you may find it frustrating to have to wait – at least you know the answer! You are not left in the dark guessing.

Forward looking companies have taken this concept to the next level by having public Question & Answer forums where other customers may be the ones answering questions.

And don’t let this web based data stagnate. As your customer service team fields calls, ensure that new questions or identified issues get added to that on-line repository.

Each time that your customer find the information that they need with out calling your customer service team, the happier they are, and the happier you are.

The SMB Takeaway

Our Websites are too often underutilized. That Website is prime real estate to create an environment where your customers can try to help themselves first.

Allowing them to help themselves provides both the the answer that they are looking for, and reduces the number of calls you are receiving.

Photo Credit urbanmkr via flickr

That title sounds a little bit like some sort of spammy e-mail doesn’t it?

Like many things, if you are being literal? That title is completely accurate – but figuratively?

Well, let me back up.

This post is the next in my occasional series introduced in this post titled; IT In Marketing.

The short summary – this series documents a pretty typical smaller business that does not have a marketing staff, and the relatively simple changes that can be made that will improve the website part of your marketing efforts.

In one of the previous posts in this series,  I showed the steps of how I plotted a baseline, did some (free) website analytics and how I intended to tackle fixing our website content.

One key point that I previously mentioned was important to me;  I did not want some 2 plus year project trying to rewrite the whole web site.

I wanted to modify it one  page at a time. Write it, proof it, test it, then put it on the site. My goal being to refresh the content on one page per week. (the whole purpose of this series is that it is a part time thing right?)

I previously wrote that in the several months I was just monitoring traffic to the website – we got zero (none, nada, zip, zilch) visits to our site by people that found our website by the search engines – unless they were actually searching for part of our company name.

If you searched for: What is ABC Corp’s address

You found our website OK

If you searched for anything in our business space – well you didn’t find us.

Back to my weird title!

After just the second week, having only refreshed the data on only two web pages, I received three web site visitors that found us via the content we have – rather than just our company name.

I was able to tell our management team; ‘hey we got three!

When a co-worker reminded us that ‘three’ was 300% better than Zero!

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