Keeping Your Brand Relevant in a Changing World

Most small businesses aren’t offering world-changing innovations. They’re simply offering their own twist on products or services that are already easy to find. So how do your prospects locate you – and why should they bother to try? This is the importance of brand relevance. Here’s how to make your brand culturally relevant, and give consumers a reason to seek you out.  Take a stand What issue are you interested in personally? Whether your focus is environmental, gender-based, local, or international, your brand should have a clear point of view. Take a stand based on a cause you can get behind – promoting local artists, a small business collective, recycling, racial equality, education – you get the idea. When you take a stand, consumers have a reason to care about your brand. This is the kind of relationship building that makes you visible in a global, click-and-pay marketplace.  Take action Obviously, you’re going to have to walk your talk. Start a small initiative to support your cause, and ask others to join in. Organize office recycling programs, collect seasonal donations of food or school supplies, promote a monthly arts and crafts walk. Whatever form your public action takes, make sure …

Keeping it Real: How Small Businesses Capitalize on Realtime Marketing

Watching the giant brands develop realtime marketing strategies reminds me of a bunch of guys teaching an elephant to tap dance. They spend countless hours consulting with experts in animal behavior, then more hours working with the elephant, and finally, when the elephant is completely trained, they hope a marching band will walk past the elephant so he can do his thing. Realtime marketing doesn’t have to be this complicated, and it sure doesn’t have to be this clumsy. In fact, I believe the key to good realtime marketing is simplicity – and small businesses are far better equipped to create simple, everyday realtime marketing tactics that work. No elephants required.  Find the people near you You can’t get any smaller than a one-man operation, but Chicago cabbie Rashid Temuri could teach the big guys a thing or two. He’s been using realtime marketing for several years, and it’s made him the best known cabbie in the city. Using the Twitter handle @ChicagoCabbie, Temuri generates massive repeat business among his followers. Customers can locate his cab using Google Latitude or with the Find My Friends app, and when they’re ready for a ride, they tweet him.  Look for local relevance …

The Top 3 Social Media Fails of 2013 (so far)

We’re only five months into the year, and there have already been some great lessons to learn from the big guys. Put these under your pillow tonight, and enjoy sweet dreams of success in social media. American Air: A conversation with a robot isn’t a conversation. Back in February, a Twitter user commented on AA’s merger with US Airways, calling the newly formed company the “largest, sh**tiest airline in the world.” American Air’s robot response tweet was the same one they sent out to every comment about the merger, something along the lines of “Thanks for the support!” When someone speaks to you, you’ve got to listen. Sending out batches of duplicate responses shows the world you don’t care what they think. Belvedere Vodka: Humor is great – when it’s actually funny. In late March, Belvedere posted an ad that appeared to feature a man assaulting a woman along with a “humorous” tagline. The fallout from this ad was intense and immediate. Belvedere pulled it just a few minutes after it was posted. True enough, the ad went viral – but for all the wrong reasons. Great strategy, Belvedere! You made your brand look sleazier than a bottle of cooking …

Tumblr: Say Hello to Your New Sugar Daddy

The news became official yesterday: Yahoo has sealed the deal with Tumblr, offering up an astonishing $1.1 billion in exchange for access to Tumblr’s highly prized base. Since word got out a few days ago that the deal was in the offing, social media channels have been flooded with worries, complaints, and anger from Tumblr users. Longtime Tumblr fans have expressed a sense of betrayal – after saying that ads nauseated him, how could CEO David Karp sell out like this? Tumblr influencers, including a co-editor at TechCrunch, have threatened to find other homes. There’s even an online petition protesting this massive marriage of convenience. Oh, please. The whole situation reminds me of a phenomenon we see all the time: a beautiful young lady who finds herself an older sugar daddy to support her in style. Now that the deal is struck, the lovely one is afraid she’ll have to change her life a bit in exchange. Well, sure she will. But not that much: Advertising I absolutely believe in freedom of expression on the internet. But freedom has nothing to do with no cost. Who exactly did the Tumblr community think was going to support them? Tumblr was moving …

my ebook

Preparing Yourself for Writing Your Industry E-Book

The quick rise of self-publishing—specifically on platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct program—has made it easier than ever for people to create and distribute content. For small business owners, this has created the opportunity to share their knowledge and ideas in the form of e-books. The reasoning behind writing a book to be distributed via e-book is twofold. First, as long as the book is well thought out and well written, it can make the author seem like an expert in their field. It can be a nice item to use as a giveaway and lets clients know that you’re not only an expert within your industry, but that you are also dedicated enough to the industry to have taken the time to write a book about it. Secondly, writing your own e-book creates an additional stream of revenue for you. When you place your book on platforms such as Amazon, Smashwords or Kobo, you can price it for whatever you like. Current strategies indicate that the sweet spot for small business e-books sits between the $1.99 – $4.99 range. The advantage to self-publishing digitally is that you can distribute the book as you like. While people are buying it …

wow factor

Is Your Business Delivering the Wow Factor?

It’s one thing to meet the needs of your clients. It’s quite another to exceed their expectations. In fact, it’s exceeding expectations that will keep clients coming back. It’s also instrumental in getting great word-of-mouth exposure. Satisfying your clients is nothing special. If you run a business, it is your job to meet their demands and, so long as they are reasonable, their requests. There is nothing overly special about this. The tricky thing, of course, is to find the line between satisfying your clients and wowing them. Then, once you find that line, you need to boldly jump right over it. Sure, this seems easier said than done; but the key to the “wow” factor is as simple as consistently delivering more value than the client expects.  More than that, you need to research your competition and come up with something you can offer than they don’t. Let’s use a fictional example.  Let’s say Advertising Firm A offers a start-up package that includes a basic web design, 2,500 words of web copy, and logo creation. If you are Advertising Firm B, you could offer the same but surprise your client with 5 logo creations to choose from at no …

4 Tips to Build Audience Engagement

Okay, maybe you don’t have the creative resources to pull a viral YouTube video out of your hat. Most people don’t. But there are some very practical and simple ways to incite better engagement with your online audience. Here are a few great tips that are easy to use – and almost entirely free. 1. Ask questions You don’t have to ask your audience questions that relate directly to your business. Your goal is simply to get them talking. Finding out what interests them can lead to all kinds of useful information. And without a doubt, once people are talking, you’ll get plenty of feedback about your business. Open the doors to communication by giving your audience the chance to speak. 2. Create lists For years, the David Letterman Show has tapped into our mania for lists. You can do the same. Create a list of your top ten people who changed the world, or a themed list based on seasons and holidays – the ten things we’re most thankful for this year, or the ten best local Christmas light displays, for example. You’ll be amazed at how fast people will chime in with their own contributions. 3. Share interesting …

Viral Video Overdrive: Deconstructing “Shift It”

The latest viral video to pass a million views on YouTube is “Shift It,” produced by internet phenoms Rhett and Link for Arlen’s Transmission in Burbank, California. If you haven’t seen this crazy, cheesy masterpiece yet, take a look here! It’s not tough to figure out why this video became so popular. It’s a canny combination of authenticity, humor, and great brand personality – the same elements I talk about here all the time. Authenticity You can’t get much more authentic than Gorgen Zargarian. He’s the star of the video and the owner of Arlen’s Transmission. It’s pretty clear from his performance that Gorgen loves to entertain and knows how to laugh at himself. This suave 62 year old Iranian-Armenian American spends his weekends hosting a satellite TV show, “The Gorgen Show.” He’s made a Farsi pop CD, and the music in the “Shift It” video is from one of his songs. Humor From the moment we see Gorgen wielding his air wrench like Thor’s hammer, we know we’re in for a treat. His lovely dancing girls prance casually around in cutoff jean shorts and high heels, in what we can only assume is a Burbank interpretation of traditional Persian dance. …

Bring Your Small Business to a Younger Generation

Business and marketing experts constantly stress the importance of reaching the huge – and growing – group of young consumers between the ages of 17 and 34. And with an astonishing amount of discretionary funds ($1.7 billion) this generation is certainly worth our attention. Yet I hear small business owners repeating variations on the following theme over and over: Sure, social media works great with young people – if you’re Red Bull, or Ikea. But how am I supposed to get them interested in my plumbing service? (Or auto repair shop, or restaurant supplies….or, well, you get the picture.) Come on, don’t be one of those guys! It’s not as hard as you think to tweak your marketing for greater relevance with this burgeoning market. Consider these suggestions: Let the market adjust your focus Use your established social media channels to reach out to young consumers. Ask them what topics they’d like to know more about. Set up online polls to target their preferences, and reward participants with a small thank you gift – a discount coupon, or a branded tote bag they can pick up at your shop. Engaging young people in this way raises overall recognition for your …

Defusing an Angry Customer – Turning Anger into Advocacy

It’s an unfortunate truth: your customers are far likelier to tell their friends about an unpleasant business experience than a good one. And with social media providing instant connection and widespread dissemination, their unhappiness can do real, long-term damage to your company. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some ways to defuse a volatile situation and perhaps even turn an online detractor into a powerful advocate for your brand.  Respond quickly Stay on top of the social media channels that matter to your brand. As soon as you become aware of an unsatisfied customer, send a response. The longer you let an angry client wait, the worse the situation will become. Stories about bad business practices, unsatisfactory products, or customer service nightmares spread like wildfire and build a negative buzz around your brand in a hurry.  Respond personally Don’t waste your time trying to explain company policy, or the fine print in the contract that puts you legally “in the right.” Act like a human being, and treat your customer like one too. Use your real name, and refer to your customer by name. Give him a way to contact you directly, and let him know up …