A simple and basic social media marketing plan


This short presentation I did for one of my clients lays out the basics of how to drive engagement and action via social media channels for any company.  Want to get started in Social media marketing?  Start here…

 

How to Mess Up a Perfectly Good Customer Experience


As a marketer, you should be overly concerned about how your customers experience your brand, products and customer service. I evangelize how in the internet age it’s very easy for a company to wind up getting skewered via social media.

But all isn’t the same out there. I come across businesses daily who don’t have their proverbial act together. All could really learn some lessons on how customers must be king or else.

I love to go to the movies. The local theater I go to recently underwent a complete makeover, including new, wider reclining chairs; a bar with real food and alcoholic beverages; and more. This theater already had a really great loyalty program in place: it seemed for every couple of movies I went to, I wound up with a free ticket. Very cool!

Even more cool (guilty pleasure alert), it actually used real butter on its popcorn. Oh, and free refills. And it was never too crowded like the mega-giga-multiplex in town where you need a shuttle bus a la Disney to get from the parking lot to the theater.

Enter Frank Theatres a few short months ago and the mega-giga-multiplex doesn’t look so bad. It upped the price of a movie ticket by a few bucks, made it harder than winning the lottery to get a free ticket via its points-based loyalty program and in general tortured me as a customer by making the $6 popcorn nonrefillable. Now you have to buy the $7.50 size (maybe you city folks pay that for 30 cents of corn, oil and seasonings, but down south here that’s a big jump) in order to get refills. I’m pretty sure the $6 bag and the $7.50 bucket are about the same size, so why not just charge me $1.50 for a refill and stop with the subterfuge already.

I won’t even tell you about how customers are supposed to understand how to wait in one central line for the candy counter until the next person is called without any velvet ropes or a queue. Ridiculous! Is it one line or three lines? This is for sure going to turn into a fistfight one day soon because people try to form three lines only to be told they’re cutting the line.

The kicker: I took my family to the movies last weekend knowing I’d drop close to $100 for the latest 3-D flick (an additional $3 just to use the theater’s 3-D glasses), but I couldn’t even use a $100 bill. The girl at the ticket booth told me flatly, “We don’t take that, it’s our policy.”

So by now the moral of the story should be obvious — wait for the movie to come out on cable. Wait, that’s not it.

The moral is your customers have expectations. If you meet or beat those expectations, you’ll do well in business. If you don’t, there will likely be consequences — i.e., lost sales. Your customers are creatures of habit. They like their little creature comforts. If you take them away, they tend to get upset and take their business elsewhere.

So a note to Frank Theatres: This is the internet age. Get it together or deal with some very vocal customers who like what they like. If it’s going to take over another theater, keep the customs of that theater or risk losing business (or at least go with gradual change). It’s OK to add to a better user experience. Be careful that progress isn’t taking one step forward and two steps back.

Does humor belong in business?


Folks, business is serious business!

I’ve worked for too many companies who took themselves way too seriously.  And why not be serious – its important work bringing great products to consumers, right?

Wrong!  Given the growth of social media and its ability to put a human face on your companies business, its time to have some fun.  There are so many great options for you these days to inject a little humor into your business (caveat: be real and genuine) with Facebook, Youtube, blogs, etc.

I know I have spoken about them before, but one company I work with, The Fresh Diet is ALL about fun.  Their Facebook page is constantly holding contests, many of which are designed just to be engaging and fun.

Last week we upped the ante on their fun level and created a video spoof of the show Undercover Boss for our customers and fans.  It took us a half a day of shooting and another half a day to edit it (yes we used a professional video company).  The feedback from our customers and fans on Facebook has been great.  We even plan on doing other spoof videos in the future and turning this into a regular event.

So I wanted to share it with you here.  I hope it sparks something for you that you can use with your customers and fans.

On another note, I want to wish each and every one of you a happy and safe holiday!  Speak to you soon!

How Integrating Social Media Into its Marketing Mix Brought The Fresh Diet Success


By Melissa Campanelli, from eMarketing and Commerce Magazine

Integrating social media into its marketing mix has helped drive revenue for The Fresh Diet, a gourmet diet delivery service established in 2005 that delivers freshly prepared meals and two snacks directly to its clients’ doors each day.

The Fresh Diet’s newly redesigned website makes it easy for visitors to engage in social media, which creates excitement for prospects coming to the site. “There are all kinds of chicklets on our homepage where we drive people to our social media sites and blog,” says Jim Gilbert , The Fresh Diet’s chief marketing officer and frequent eM+C contributor. “Then they can see what’s happening on our social media sites to get a sense of what their peers are saying about the company.”

What’s more, Gilbert says, “we know that once we have them on a social media site, we’re pretty good at drawing them out. We do a lot of contests and we have a lot of people who are very vocal. So we’re always doing fun and crazy contests there.”

A recent video contest The Fresh Diet launched on Facebook received 15 videos from customers that ranged from heartfelt to funny, Gilbert says. “One person who loves our cheesecake did a takeoff on ‘The Terminator,’ calling himself ‘The Cheesecakeator,’ and did a four-minute video on that.”

While social media creates excitement for The Fresh Diet, it also helps drive sales. “We know for a fact that every time we run a special on Facebook, people come out in droves and order,” Gilbert says.

Social media mix
To drive people to multiple channels, The Fresh Diet sometimes introduces a contest on Facebook designed to drive people to its blog. Or, it may use Twitter to promote its contests.

“Oftenimes, we use a combination of the three,” Gilbert says. “We drive people from the blog to Facebook, from Facebook to the blog, and Twitter to both places. We really believe that the more channels people are engaged in, the more likely they’ll be our better customers.”

The Fresh Diet also uses Facebook Ads, a tool that enables it to post display ads on targeted Facebook pages. In addition to Facebook Ads, The Fresh Diet has used paid celebrities (Lindsay Lohan, to name one) to tweet about its brand and drive people to its Facebook page. But that type of campaign can be expensive, Gilbert notes.

GrouponOpens in a new window, the deal-of-the-day website, is also part of The Fresh Diet’s marketing mix. The Fresh Diet is able to strategically select the areas that it wants to promote in — e.g., new cities where it will be offering its delivery service — via Groupon.

The Fresh Diet is in the process of creating a social media app that will allow it to push its members’ meal choices to their Facebook or Twitter streams at the appropriate times, enabling its customers’ friends and followers to get an idea of what the customers are eating.

“It will be a clickable link, so if a customer’s Facebook friends click on it, they’ll see a beautiful, full-color, professionally photographed image of the meal,” Gilbert says. “Taking it a step further, when The Fresh Diet customer’s friends or followers click on that link, the customer would get points or a reward.”

Marketing beyond social media
But The Fresh Diet doesn’t only use social media for marketing. It also sends monthly direct mailers to prospects, for example.

“We work with a top-notch list broker, RMI Direct MarketingOpens in a new window, and look for lists of people that have a certain amount of income, have proven that they’ve bought big and tall or plus-size items in the past, and are all direct mail responsive buyers,” Gilbert says.

The Fresh Diet has increased its direct mail circulation this year. “We started out mailing 50,00 to 100,000 pieces, but now we’re up to 500,000 at a clip,” Gilbert notes.

Email is also a big part of The Fresh Diet’s marketing mix. To help it acquire new customers, The Fresh Diet relies on two opt-in email lists: a referral list through Catalogs.comOpens in a new window and a list of people who are highly targeted, such as those who have gone to a specific diet company’s website and registered.

As for frequency, The Fresh Diet sends out an e-newsletter to customers and prospects at least once a month, and supplements that with an email campaign regularly. “I’d say we’re touching our customers via email on average about twice a month,” Gilbert says.

The Fresh Diet is currently in the process of creating tell-a-friend and upsell-type emails to go out once people come onboard as clients, Gilbert adds.

All of this activity has helped The Fresh Diet get more visitors to its website, social media sites and blogs. In fact, every single metric that the company measures is increasing, according to Gilbert.

“Our direct mail response rates have been going up, as are our customer retention rates,” Gilbert says. “We noticed early on this year that when we do a direct mail campaign, in a matter of days after their initial order, people literally come back and buy more. Everything seems to be firing on all cylinders.”

FAIL: As an online marketer I applaud the US Postal Service for it’s Exigent Rate Case. Read my letter to them


Dear Mr. Postmaster General and the honorable members of the Postal Regulatory Commission,

As an online marketer, I want to thank you. I cannot wait until you raise postage rates come January. Now some people may not agree with me, but I applaud your efforts to consistently raise postage rates.

As I was starting my business a few years ago, you announced an incredible postal rate increase — if I remember correctly, around 20 percent — that really helped my business take off. So many direct marketers, who could no longer afford to profitably mail catalogs and other direct mail, came calling. As a result, my business flourished (as did many of my comrades in the online space).

Now I hear you’re on the verge of passing something called an “exigent” rate increase, pushing postal costs up another 5 percent.

Very cool, thanks!

I also love how you got around the specific language that was designed to keep you from arbitrarily raising rates. :-)

Right now I bet many direct marketers are pretty angry with you. They’re probably feverishly calculating their profit-and-loss statements to determine how many previously profitable mailing lists aren’t going to be profitable anymore. How fortunate for me. I wonder how many new customers I can pick up come the first quarter?

And one other thing I want to mention as long as you’re reading this: You know those summer postal “sales” you’ve had the last two years? Yeah, those ones where the criteria for qualification to receive the discount are ridiculously hard for mailers to meet? Well, I really appreciate your help in disillusioning the direct marketing community. Remember, the more jaded and disillusioned it becomes, the better for my business.

That’s it for now. I hope this letter finds you all well. Keep up the good work — my business needs it!

Sincerely,
Steven M. Search

EDITORS NOTE: Some people, mostly internet marketers, are commenting on linkedin that they applaud this article – like it’s real!!!  Folks, this post is meant as pure acidic sarcasm and irony.  Its intent is to skewer the USPS, The Postmaster General and The Postal Rate Commission for their stupidity in biting the hand that feeds them, and single-handedly destroying their future earnings potential as they drive marketers out of a highly targetable and profitable channel.  I find it both humorous and horrifying that people would take this post literally.

Jim

A 3,500% increase in fans/likes, engagement and sales on Facebook? (a case study)


When I first started marketing via social media, I didn’t understand Facebook. A blog was the central focus of my social media programs. I’d create a blog post and push it out via Facebook and other social media channels. And that worked well at driving traffic to my blog. As for engagement with my readers, I got some comments back, even some people interacting with each other on occasion, but nothing earth-shattering.

Over on Facebook, I had a whole bunch of content, but no interaction and not many fans. I’ve seen a ton of Facebook fan pages like that.

But about a year ago, I found the key that unlocked the Facebook engagement factor. At that time I took over the fan page of one of my clients, The Fresh Diet Opens in a new window(whom I wrote about  last week). When I began working on The Fresh Diet’s Facebook pageOpens in a new window, it had 96 fans. At first it was business at usual: Write a blog post and put it on Facebook; add The Fresh Diet’s Facebook link to emails; etc. The net result: In three months, The Fresh Diet had accumulated 300 fans.

Since January, The Fresh Diet has seen its Facebook fan base swell to over 3,500 fans. Here’s how we did it:

  1. We asked questions — sometimes controversial ones — that drew fans out.
  2. We held contests. At first these were held every few weeks, but now they’re going on almost all the time. And they’re simple: caption a picture, name a feature of The Fresh Diet’s business, etc.
  3. We also held more elaborate contests. Recently, The Fresh Diet held a video testimonial contest and was blown away by the results.
  4. I know you’ve heard this one many times by now, but The Fresh Diet spoke in a real voice. The voice of The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page is me — goofy, earnest, caring, sometimes a bit snarky and sarcastic, but always real. I call myself The Fresh Diet’s “fearless FB leader,” and they now call me by it, too.
  5. To tie items three and four together, The Fresh Diet’s fearless FB leader is known for “overgiving” contest prizes. Goofing around one day, when it was just too tough to choose between two contest winners, I named four winners. Pretty soon, I coined the phrase “overgiving”; The Fresh Diet’s Facebook fans now wait in anticipation to see how much free food I give out.
  6. Find and nurture your brand’s dominant influencers. Early on in my work with The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page, I noticed half a dozen people started to stand out. So I built a relationship with them, not as a strategy of course, but a real relationship. As brand ambassadors, these people have become the voice of The Fresh Diet’s Facebook page, too. And I find new ambassadors all the time!
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask people to do things. Promote your page, run a contest, take over for a bit. When you build real relationships with real people, not just “fans” or “likes,” they’ll walk through fire for you (because they know you’ll do the same for them).
  8. Go crazy. Last week, I asked an actress and singer to do a music video for us (we have lots of famous people on The Fresh Diet). She was totally honored and did a homemade video — even gave me a shout out in it. The Fresh Diet holds contests where people write songs about their favorite meals, or they have to rearrange the lyrics in a song or slogan to be about The Fresh Diet. Our fans love it.
  9. In my next column, I’ll continue to detail some of the ways you can build engagement and sales on Facebook.

7 ways to make the Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest Growing Companies list in a down economy like my client did


I’m not really big on self-promotion or self-congratulations — especially here in my column. However, I’m quite pleased to “admit” that one of the companies I work for has made Inc. magazine’s fastest growing companies in America listOpens in a new window.

So, what does it take to make the list? While it’s not Inc.’s criteria, I’ll tell you from my perspective what you and your company need to do to get there.

But before I do, let me tell you a bit about the company in question. The Fresh Diet Opens in a new windowwas founded in 2005 in classic entrepreneurial style — in the kitchen of CEO Zalmi Duchman with Executive Chef Yosef Schwartz . The company creates gourmet meals that are healthy, portion controlled and delicious (Chef Yos is a Cordon BleuOpens in a new window-trained chef). The meals are prepared fresh and hand-delivered to clients’ homes every day.

For this luxury (or is it?), customers dish out about $35 a day (most order a month’s worth of Fresh Diet meals at a time — about $1,100).

So, how can your company follow in The Fresh Diet’s footsteps and makeInc.’s 500 list? Here are seven ways how:

  • Identify products that create fanatics and advocates. It’s easy to go into the meal delivery business and not deliver food daily, or by hand, or buy top-quality meats and produce. But why do that? The Fresh Diet constantly strives to exceed its customers’ expectations.
  • Build a persona around your business and your people. It’s not enough to just be a business these days. With social media and peer recommendations fully in play, companies must put a face to the nameless, faceless corporate entity. Use social media as a way to connect with your customers. But don’t do it as a strategy. Connect in an honest and personal way, in a real voice. For a good example of how The Fresh Diet accomplishes this, check out its Facebook pageOpens in a new window.
  • Take risks, but calculated ones. Develop a mentality of testing — everything from marketing channels to individual campaigns. But also calculate the risks. Test small and do your math up front; big results can potentially be found in tests of all sizes. Even companies that are struggling should test. By making testing part of your culture, the rewards will outweigh the risks.
  • Empower your employees to think and act independently. The days of micromanaging employees are over. Empowered employees are more productive employees. Find great talent, then let them do their thing. OK, so sometimes they won’t do what you thought they should do, but that will be offset by things you never would have thought of.
  • Use all of your channels. I’ve seen too many companies get stuck these days by a specific kind of thinking: online retailers who only market online; direct marketers who fear advertising online; etc. Don’t fall into that trap. The Fresh Diet survives quite nicely in the online and traditional worlds, where it’s tested and rolled out many successful programs.
  • Understand that messaging needs time to develop. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither should your messaging. Going back to developing a culture of testing, your marketing message falls into a category that should be constantly tested. And even if you hit it big and have “control” messaging that works, always strive to make it better.
  • Handle customer service issues promptly, and look to resolve each issue in the customer’s favor. Know that an upset customer is a brand ambassador waiting to happen once their issue is resolved (which says much for the lack of customer centricity with other brands).
  • How These Call Center Training Techniques Can Increase Your Call-Center Conversions


    As direct marketers, we spend a great deal of time and money developing programs to make the phone ring. But it’s the call-center agents that truly make the cash register sing.

    Therefore, I spend a great deal of time training customer service reps (CSRs) to be powerful brand advocates with the ability to make a difference with all customers. Personally, I hate calling a company and hearing some disinterested rep deal with my order in a lackluster way. It tells me the company I’m dealing with doesn’t get that the people manning the phones are the voice of the company.

    A simple CSR training program can solve the lackluster attitude and increase conversion.

    CSR’s should be trained to think on their feet rather than interacting with customers and prospects by reading a script. Of course, good call-center software with a scripted environment can be beneficial, but even the best scripting can’t beat a well-trained CSR’s instincts. It’s important to hire reps that can work this way, and then mentor and monitor them on an ongoing basis. A word of caution: Analyze call times to ensure your reps aren’t burning up phone time with the personal touch.

    CSR training programs are quite simple. You don’t need elaborate monitoring equipment. Simply use a cassette recorder and some basic monitoring equipment you can buy at Radio Shack to record CSRs’ calls for a day, then listen to the tapes. Break the reps into teams of three or four and sit in a room together and listen to the day’s calls. Teach the reps to listen actively and objectively to the calls.

    Let them coach each other on the cues and buying signals that sometimes get missed in real time. If you spot a missed buying signal, stop the tape — I encourage all of the reps in the group to stop the tape if they hear something — and role-play how the rep could’ve made a difference in converting the call.

    Set up contests during the training process for the individual CSR and training team that generates the highest conversion rates. Drill the reps on making sure to be gentle and not pushy, as it’s human nature to get more aggressive to win a contest. Stress the quality of the relationship with the customer as well as the quantity of the order.

    Using this simple technique at one company I worked with, we increased conversion rates by as much as 20 percent. Also, by fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and healthy competition, we increased the enthusiasm and morale in its call center as well.

    Train CSRs to seek out opportunities to cross-sell effectively. Let your reps know which items complement each other, and coach them on the art of cross-selling. Truth is, sometimes all it takes is a suggestion, something like, “Do you know, Ms. Jones, that we have a beautiful top that complements the shorts you’re purchasing today?”

    What Multichannel, Direct and Ecommerce Marketers Can Learn From the Way Old-School Retailers Do Business


    This week I want to tell you a story, and pay tribute to a local businessperson who recently passed away.

    I don’t live in a particularly small town (about 200,000 residents), but for the last 16 years — since I moved to Florida — I’ve been a regular patron at Howards, a local gourmet market named after its founder.

    After a brief illness, Howard passed away on July 5. I found out the next day when I walked into the market and saw the looks on the employees’ faces. One look and I knew something was very wrong. In a short period of time, I saw quite a few people weeping — both employees and patrons.

    On the TV monitor over the register a tribute was playing to the owner in a loop. I offered my condolences to some of the long-time employees, paid and left. As I walked to my car, I started to tear up, too. Now I’m not a particularly weepy person, so I found it odd that I started to cry.

    But this man, and the business he’d built, had been a part of my daily life for a long time. The store would hold classic car shows, July 4th fireworks and more in its parking lot. When there was a hurricane, Howards stayed open to keep the community going.

    I can’t tell you how many parties, BBQs, dinners, etc. my wife and I have enjoyed courtesy of the foods Howards provided.

    And almost every day for 16 years, there was Howard by the front register talking to customers and building relationships with all who entered. He knew my family by name. Even gave my son, who was seven-years-old at the time, a job application to fill out (we had fun with that!)

    So Why Am I Telling You This?
    Think about your company: Do you know your customers by name, or are you just a nameless, faceless entity that people buy product from? How about your staff. Are they, especially your customer service reps (CSRs), connected to your customers? Via how many touchpoints?

    There’s a lot to be learned from your old-school retailer. I wonder on a daily basis how to translate that to my business and clients. From trial and error, I’ve learned and hopefully taught the companies I’ve worked for how to build relationships with their clients. It used to be that people only bought “stuff” from retailers. I tell companies, “People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.”

    How Does That Translate in the E-Commerce Age?
    Simple! Make sure all of your customer touchpoints “keep it real.” Have your CSRs build relationships with your customers. Send them a surprise email special. Connect via your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. (Still don’t have these up and running? What are you waiting for?) Push your employees to the forefront. Do stories, biographies and contests revolving around them. Learn to use your website and social media efforts to project a real and personal voice. Respond immediately to complaints, issues, etc.

    I could go on here, but you get the picture. Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us how you connect and engage with your customers. Go for it!

    And Howard … RIP! You’ll be missed!

    Your Call Center is Bleeding! – Connecting the Dots of Your Customer Touchpoints, Part 2


    In part one of this series on customer touchpoints, I defined touchpoints as all the points of contact between your company and its prospects and customers. In part two, I look at one of the two main touchpoints: your call center.

    Before I start any discussion on call center and web results, I always tell clients, “Look out — what you’re about to hear may bruise your egos.” I offer that same warning to you.

    Here goes …

    No matter what company I visit, I always come away with the same thing: They’re not as efficient at converting sales as they could be. I get that knowledge the old-fashioned way: I listen to calls in the call center, and I make a number of test calls externally. I also go to a client company’s website and order a product (or attempt to, in some cases).

    First Off, the Call Center
    There are just too many missed opportunities in the call centers I evaluate. Missed buying signals, missed cues, reps not listening effectively, etc. I also see environments that are too tightly controlled and scripted, and others that are totally unscripted.

    Of course when I tell clients this, often times I get a blank stare, like, “What do you mean my call center sucks? Do you know how much effort I put into technology, people and training there?”

    And sometimes, right there, the messenger gets shot! But in truth, this does happen, and if you’re willing to spend time listening, you’ll hear it too. We reconvene here in two weeks. When we do, I’ll offer some simple call-center training techniques I’ve used to increase sales conversion rates by as much as 20 percent.

    In the mean time, please listen to your calls, make test calls to your call center and soak in as much as you can. You may be in for an eye-opening experience. This is especially true if you’re in another department or are an executive in your company.

    After the call-center training in my next post, I’ll move into web orders and how you’re missing the boat there.

    Oh, and a last point: If you don’t have a call center, you ARE missing sales. We’ll discuss that next week, too.

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