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I Don’t Know Why, But I Feel Like Buying

14 Apr

The secret's in the scent

If you have a retail store, a hotel, spa, or other business location, you have a significant chunk of coin you need to lay out each month in overhead. So, if you are any kind of business person, you must be constantly wracking your brain, trying to figure out how to squeeze more money out of what you have. Should you change your merchandise, your display, give your staff a pep talk? Should you advertise more, use social media more or have a sale? Believe it or not, one of the most effective things you can do to boost sales, increase repeat business and bind customers more closely with your store and its products is to use scent.

Scent is the only sense that bypasses the logical, price comparison part of the brain and goes directly to the emotion and memory centers. What is the main trigger for buying consumer goods? That’s right – it is emotion. Do these pants make me look fat? (insecurity) Beer commercials (desire to be cool and sexy) BMW- there is no substitute (prestige) and the list goes on…

Scent is uniquely effective in making consumers linger in your store, spending more money. It subconsciously communicates that your products are of a higher quality or more suitable for your needs, and it puts people in a buying mood. Furthermore, adding scent to your environment is an affordable way to boost your sales. Just get a cold air diffuser or two and the fragrance oil and you are ready to go.

You can learn more about how using scent can improve your sales and brand at the upcoming ScentWorld Expo, December 7-9 in Miami Beach. Hope to see you there.

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Eeek! I’ve Seen a Ghost (Blogger)!

25 Aug

The ghost at the machine

Let’s say you have a company that provides a service or product. You’ve been in the business for a number of years, you may even have a degree in it, it is a huge part of your life. Your clients love your product or service and really appreciate the insight and expertise you are able to give them when you interact with them. Now you want to take your business to the next level by sharing your expertise and thereby attracting new clients to your business. Everyone has told you that you need a blog. Not only will it allow you to spread the word about your company, but it will help your website climb organically in the search engines.

There are just a few problems: you don’t like writing (or are not good at it) and you have no time. If you are a lawyer, consultant or other kind of professional who charges by the hour, it may not make economic sense for you to spend unbillable hours writing a blog.

What to do? Should you put your blog ambitions on the shelf? There is another option and it’s called ghost blogging. Most people are familiar with the concept of a ghost writer. If you have a story to tell or information to get out and you want to publish a book, you may look for an experienced writer who will work with you to take the information out of your head and get it on paper in a coherent way.

Ghost blogging is basically the same process. First, a plan and schedule are determined by the client and blogger, to decide what the goal of the blog is, what topics should be covered, the style of writing, and how often content will be posted. The blogger then interviews the client to extract the person’s expertise on the various topics, and may supplement this information with books, articles or white papers provided by the client or found online. Once the post is written, the client reviews it to make sure it is factually correct and adequately covers the topic. Then the blogger posts it online.

It is critical that the client be involved in the process, and reads each post not only to make sure it is sending the right message, but also so that he or she can speak to it with clients. I also recommend that the client be the one responsible for responding to comments on the blog, so that he or she can establish a relationship with the readers and potential customers who care enough about the topic/company to make a comment.

But, Is It Right?

Some people have been going off on a rant about how ghost blogging is just not right. They feel it’s sort of like hiring someone to write your term paper in college. The thing that made the bought term paper wrong was that the person didn’t do the work of learning what he was representing he was learning. You, however, have invested years learning your business or trade. You’re the real deal.

No one raises a stink when celebrities use ghostwriters to write their memoirs. And it is commonly accepted for companies to outsource their newsletters to PR agencies. It’s my feeling that as long as the client, whether as an individual or a company, actually has the expertise that the blog is communicating, it is perfectly fine to hire someone to do the writing.  If the client is using the blog primarily as a personal branding tool, to get speaking engagements or a job, then it is even more important that the content honestly represent the client’s knowledge, experience and style, because that will all come out eventually. But even in that situation, I don’t think it is that critical for the client to be the one actually writing the posts as long as he or she can communicate the essence of the content to the ghost blogger.

My company, Pro Creative, provides ghost blogging services to companies or individuals, so if you like this blog and would like a blog of your own, contact us. We would be happy to help you join the blogosphere.

Getting Started with Twitter: Setting Up Twitter for Business

20 Aug

How tweet it is!

Of all of the social media platforms, Twitter is the most unintuitive for business owners. Its 140-character limit, fast pace and motto “What Are You Doing?” seem to relegate it to rather meaningless updates like “Stuck in traffic! Ugh!” However, if used correctly, Twitter can be an unusually effective way for businesses to communicate with potential customers. I’ll go into the ways you can use Twitter to promote your business in a later post.

Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s how to set up your Twitter account:

  1. First, go to Twitter and sign up for an account. When you choose your login name, or “handle,” choose carefully as this will be your identifier when you tell other people to connect with you. It should be either your company identity or a keyword combination (ex. @creditrepairhelp). My Twitter handle is @buzzoomba because I use it to drive people to my blog, Buzzoomba. The URL for my Twitter page is http://twitter.com/buzzoomba, but most people use the @ handle to designate their Twitter addresses.
  2. If you want to get an overview, you can read through the Twitter help guide.
  3. Create an avatar. An avatar is a small square image that appears next to your tweets as an identifier. If you are tweeting as an individual, you can upload a photo, but for business, I suggest creating an image that is a version of your logo. Because of its small size, you may not be able to fit your entire logo and if you upload it, it will chop it off. If it looks fine, keep it, otherwise you may want to pare it down to a smaller element.
  4. If you want to brand your Twitter site, you can upload a custom background, rather than using one of the default backgrounds provided by Twitter. Here is a good post on how to do that.
  5. Now that you are set up, the next step is to find people to follow. Twitter is the most open of the social media networks. Unlike LinkedIn, where you have to know a person before inviting them into your network and you need to actually specify how you know him, and Facebook, where your invitation must be accepted by the other person, in Twitter, you are free to follow just about anybody. Many people on Twitter will follow you back if you follow them, so in an attempt to build their list, many people simply do a search on a topic related to their business using Twitter Search and follow the people who come up in the search results. You can also search on people you know by typing in their email addresses.
  6. Start tweeting away! Twitter is a very fast platform because the more people you are following and the more they tweet, the quicker each tweet drops down from the top, so it can be challenging to stand out in the crowd. Plan to tweet your message five times a day, so that it is seen by the most people. You can mix it up by tweeting two different messages so it doesn’t get boring for people who have been on and seen one of your earlier tweets. Be conscious of how you use your words because of the short length you have to work with. Most people who include links in their tweets use a site that shortens the URL for Twitter. The most popular ones are  http://bit.ly and http://tinyurl.com, although if you use a social feed aggregator like HootSuite and you bring in your blog feed, it will automatically give you a shortened URL that you can tweet.
  7. Understand the lingo. Because of the limited space, Twitter users (Twits for short) use abbreviations similar to the text messages you might see a teenager use and they also use special Twitter phrases. Here are a few:
  • Retweet (RT) – This is like forwarding on someone else’s tweet to all of your followers. When you see something useful that someone has retweeted, if you mouse over the tweet, at the bottom, you will see a link that says “Retweet,” and that’s all there is to it.
  • Reply – When you want to reply back to a particular one of your followers, follow the same procedure as above, and click “Reply,” then type your reply.
  • Hashtags – Hashtags are the # symbol and are used before a phrase that you want other people to be able to search on. For example, if you sell sports equipment and your tweet is about that, you may want to include #sportsequipment at the end of your tweet. People interested in sports equipment can then go to Twitter search and type in that phrase, and your tweet will appear in the results.
  • Direct Messages (DM) – You may want to talk directly to a follower without replying to something she has already said. In that case, you would use a direct message. Click on the person’s avatar or handle to go to her profile page. On the right side, under actions, click message and then type your message.

Twitter takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will soon find yourself tweeting along with the rest of the flock.

Are You Contagious? Starting a Viral Campaign About Your Product

11 Aug

Psst! Pass it on!

Psst! Pass it on!

Everyone has heard about how the Internet, and social media in particular can help your product or brand go viral, with people passing it along to their communities like a summer cold. But with so many marketing messages out there, how can you spark enough interest to get people to post or retweet your message?

1. Be outrageous – When you do something shocking, people want to share it. An example would be Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series on YouTube. Blendtec makes high powered kitchen blenders, and put out a series of YouTube videos where they put all sorts of things into the blender, including a golf ball, marbles, and an iPad.

2. Be funny – People love to share a good joke, and if you can use humor to spread your brand name or features, that much the better. Check out the Heinken Walk in Fridge Commerical on YouTube as an example.

3. Present astounding facts about something everyone is already interested in, but don’t know much about – Everyone loves to look like the smartest guy in the room, so if you can provide people facts they can casually drop into cocktail conversation, they will pass it along. In order to really be viral, though, it must be packaged in a cool way. A great example of this is the Socialnomics video on YouTube.

4. Be controversial – When you aren’t politically correct, tongues are sure to wag. An online t-shirt site, T-Shirt Hell carries this to the extreme, with hundreds of humorous, but offensive, prejudiced and racist t-shirts. Their twist, of course, is humor, and they started a viral avalanche when they announced that they were closing the site down because they were tired of all the people giving them a hard time. Everyone got to talking, and on the day they were scheduled to close, they announced that it was all a joke and they weren’t closing after all. Sales went up from around 3,000 t-shirts a week to 100,000 a week for the next few weeks.

OK, so now you have a great video or campaign put together. How do you get it out there?

1. Make sure your content is easily accessible from your web page, on your social media networks and in your email signature. This will reach into your community, and maybe beyond if it is compelling enough.

2. In order to turn your viral campaign into an epidemic, you need to get it into the hands of the major influencers: the top bloggers, analysts and mainsteam media folks. Send them an email with a link to download your content (don’t attach it unless asked).

3. Seed it on social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg. Provide links on your website next to your viral content that make it easy for people to recommend it on these sites.

4. Don’t give up – Your viral campaign may not become catching right away. Keep promoting it, and you may accumulate enough eyeballs to really start something. If it doesn’t catch on, try something else; not every campaign will go viral.

Now, go out and start your “word of mouse” campaign!

Made for You – Customizing Your Content

26 Jul

Give the people what they want

Much of traditional marketing has relied on mass broadcast media, where there was a wide variety of people who would be seeing your message. Necessarily, that message needed to be somewhat generic, where you would explain the features and benefits and then those who were interested would respond.

Internet marketing, and in particular, email marketing has made a whole new level of sophistication and targeting possible. The idea is to build a relationship with the prospect and with the customer so that they like and trust you. But how do you build a relationship with someone online that you have never met before?

The key is data, and using the data you have to customize a message that is relevant to the person receiving it. In the beginning of the relationship, say, when a person opts into your list for the first time, you really don’t know their specific interests. If you have more interactions with them, they may tell you what they are interested in by their behavior, for example, by clicking on a link to a particular offer or product. Then you can send them communications that focus on what they have already shown an interest in as well as complementary and similar products. You can streamline this process using an online email/CRM service like  Infusionsoft. They allow you to set up a series of emails to customers or prospects who fill out a certain form, for example. Then, you keep that information in the person’s record so that you can send them other information relating to the interest he or she has expressed.

Another route is to ask your audience directly once in a while. You can send out an email to your newsletter subscribers along the following lines: We are working to improve our newsletter. Can you help us out by letting us know what subjects you would like to hear more about? Give them a choice of 4 or 5 topics. Capture each person’s response and keep it in your database record. Then create different newsletters focused on those topics to the customers who chose them. Promotions and specials should also be relevant to their expressed interests, which will result in more clicks and more conversions. For example, if you have a travel agency, and someone has responded that she is interested in travel to the Caribbean, you can send her promotional fares to Jamaica and articles about new Caribbean resorts and attractions. There is a much greater likelihood that she will click on one of your offers since you are giving her exactly what she is interested in seeing.

Aside from customized content, there is another important concept to remember when building a relationship with a prospect or customer. Nobody wants to be treated like a “mark,” someone that a company is just trying to extract money from. Prospects and customers want to feel that they are receiving value. The value does not only relate to the quality of the product or service offered, but with the entire experience. In fact, much of the value that a company offers is given before a sale is even made.

One of the best ways to create a solid relationship with a prospect is by giving them valuable educational information relating to your product or service. For example, if you have a business software company, you could send emails to prospects with short articles about how to increase efficiencies in their office. A landscaping company can let prospects know what plants are in season and should be planted now. As a rule of thumb, communications with prospects should be at least 3:1, valuable information vs. sales promotions. If you keep to this ratio, customers will be much more likely to open your emails, read them and respond to your offers because they trust that you want to help them.

Let’s Get Engaged!

14 Jul

No, silly, I don’t want to marry you. I want to talk to you about engaging your customers and prospects through social media. Social media has changed the paradigm from companies standing on a stage (be it broadcast TV, radio, newspapers or magazines) and talking at large numbers of people, hoping that some of them care just enough to take some kind of action.

Today, our marketing more closely resembles a ladies’ luncheon, where we have the opportunity to mingle among our customers and prospects, and perhaps even more importantly, our prospects get to mingle with each other to (gasp!) discuss what they think of us. Depending on how successful we are in engaging with our audience and how good/bad our product/service/delivery times/attitude is will determine if our guests are praising our good taste or making catty comments to everyone who will listen.

The vast majority of businesses trying to create online communities fail because they are stuck in the old thinking, where they are thinking, “OK, if I build this community and I have all these people, that will help me and my company in these ways.” Yes, it is true that having a vibrant online community should benefit the company or individual running it, but that is hardly the point. No one wants to feel used. The successful consciousness to go into social media with is, “How can I offer value to this group of people in a meaningful and ongoing basis?”

Part of this is providing valuable and interesting content, but another key is engaging the audience in an exchange of some sort, and it doesn’t have to be an exchange of their money for your product (especially at first). Some of the most successful social media sites regularly solicit user opinions and contributions. They spark discussion and interaction between the company and the members and among their audience (a kind of “talk among yourselves” kind of prompt). Hold a contest where users can make a contribution by uploading an article or video about how they used your product, have a contest to name your newest ice cream flavor or mascot, put up an area for people to talk about what they really think of you. You will likely get some great comments you can use as testimonials, and you will find out all the areas that you need to fix.

Make sure that you are not censoring any negative feedback or complaints (unless they are really vulgar), but instead use the platform to promptly respond to customer problems, complaints and concerns. That will go a long way towards mollifying those customers who have the same problem but were too polite to speak up about it. It shows a transparency in the process that says, “Hey, we’re not perfect but when we see a problem, we fix it. We have nothing to hide.”

Use the technology to really connect with customers and prospects. It is the best and cheapest market research available.

Hello, honey!

12 Jul

Welcome to the Pro Creative Buzz, your way to stay on top of hot marketing topics and trends. I am your moderator, Jennifer Dublino. First, a little bit about me. Then I hope you will reciprocate by telling me all about you and your business, since the idea is to create a community where we can all discuss what’s working and what can work for you.

I have been in love with marketing since college. It is part psychology, part problem solving, part analysis and part art. I am fascinated with the idea that, as businesspeople, we can (and must!) delve into our prospects’ brains, find out what their problem is, and give them a solution, even before they have themselves identified the need. Not only that, but now that we have a solution to their need, we need to discover their emotions, desires, fears and objections and use them in an artful, creative way to produce the desired action.

I have worked on some amazing projects, like promoting Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s first ever theme cruises, writing and directing a video starring 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, coming up with online systems to sell financial services, writing blogs, white papers and other valuable content to position clients as experts in their industries, and rebranding a line of herbal wellness tonics.

What I hope to accomplish with the Pro Creative Buzz is to exchange some valuable information with those leading the future of business. By that, I mean the rise of the small and micro-business. In the time of the great industrial giants, Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, capital was king. So if you had access to large amounts of capital, the time was ripe to make a fortune. This business model was terrific for some, but left the vast majority in the dust (or on the factory floor, as the case may be). Now, capital is less important because the tools to reach large groups of people and to influence their behavior are available to anyone with access to a computer that is connected to the Internet.

According to Universal Mccann International, a major ad firm, there are 184 million people blogging, with roughly 27% of them really doing it in a serious way, to influence people’s opinions and change people’s perceptions and behavior. This means that the number of people who are trying to basically change the world through only the single medium of blogging is equivalent to the population of the 24th largest nation in the world. (This information courtesy of John Blossom, founder and author, Content Nation, www.contentnation.com, as quoted in the Social Media Bible.)

So we take the amazing capabilities of becoming publishers of information, whether it is text, photos, videos, or some other medium, and we combine it with the worldwide financial crisis, in which millions of people have lost their regular, nine to five office jobs. Many economists predict that a majority of those jobs will never come back. What are these millions of people to do? Sit on the couch watching soap operas all day? Hardly. They are using the technology and starting micro-businesses.

But while the Internet gives us unprecedented opportunities, the mad rush to its digital shores also gives us almost unfathomable competition. It is helping these intrepid entrepreneurs and small businesses keep their heads above water and begin to gather to them those prospects, alliances and customers who want and need their unique information, products and services that I have chosen to make my life’s work.

So I invite you to come with me on this fascinating journey through the new and old, the tools and strategies, the just plain coolest stuff out there. I’ll help you sift out what will work for you and why, and once again, I urge you to make this a two-way thing. I want to hear about you and your experiences so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself. 🙂

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