Turning your customers into a community

There’s nothing better than turning your customers into a community of fans. That is the dream of most companies and bloggers on the net. It’s what has turned Facebook from a “reunion set-up” site to a community building juggernaut.  With a community of fans comes more sales, more feedback, more interaction and fun. What could be better than that?

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to do. 

What makes it hard is many companies want to create these “communities” on their own terms. For instance many groups who see a bunch of chatter on Twitter about them, will open up forums for those people to congregate and continue their “Chatter”.  Most of the time, however, the attempt never catches on while the chatter on Twitter remains.

A local Chamber of Commerce group here is always trying to get their members to come to special “education” sessions, or networking meetings – but despite their membership of 300 businesses only a handful attend each event. Are they fighting against the grain?

Likewise a large internet marketing conference series has had a hard time getting their forum to catch on within the membership – despite lively conversations happening everyday on Twitter, Skype and Facebook. Is the forum lacking some “draw”, something exclusive or it is just inconvenient?

So what is the key to turning customers into a community?

There are a couple trends among groups who’ve created successful communities. The first is “be first”. The Virtual Assistant Group VANetworking created a group on LinkedIn for Virtual Assistants. Without knowing the group was flourishing, VANetworking had amassed a group of 7,000 VA’s in their LinkedIn group.  They had merely created the place for a community to exist – and voila! it grew.

Another successful “community” is the type Lynn Terry has put together with her membership forum. While chatter about Lynn’s teachings is rampant on Twitter, and comments on her blog remain very active she was able to move that to the forum. From an outsider’s perspective it appears that the secret to her forum is the access she grants of” herself to the members. The “draw” is what you can learn from Lynn and the community comes from the shared experience.

Lastly, take advantage of the community that is already present. If there’s a bunch of chatter on Twitter, instead of trying to move that natural speak to a forum, why not join them there? The use of hash tags on Twitter enables “communities” of people to search for others in the same group.

In another case, I was recently involved in an online swim group where the focal point was a Google Doc Spreadsheet people updated every day with their stats. The head of the group did have a separate forum set up, but it didn’t get used much by our group’s members. What we did was leave “comments” in the spreadsheet. Instead of asking us to move our comments to the forum, the organizer began commenting himself and leaving comments. Instead of trying to remake the community – he joined it.

As to the Chamber of Commerce group, perhaps a community isn’t what members are looking for. Perhaps businesses have joined the Chamber to put the sticker in their window? Perhaps they have joined the Chamber to put the symbol on their business card.  Perhaps the community the Chamber needs to build is not one represented by a forum or attendance, but through the reputation of its efforts.

Not every group has the ability to create a community.

Think about your cable guy, your plumber or your banker. Can you see yourself actively participating in a forum on their websites?  For most people the answer would be no. But that doesn’t mean these groups can’t harness the idea of community another way. There are a myriad of ways local businesses can get their customers and fans together without the internet.

If you’ve seen a great example for us to learn from, please leave a comment below. We love success stories.

Local Business: Beware of Today’s 7 yr olds

My 7 year old, who is in the beginning stages or learning to read, seems to be able to use the computer and the internet without a problem. Whether it’s images on Google or online video games, his inability to read well hasn’t slowed him down.

Nevertheless, he knows how to sound things out and occasionally I’ll walk by when he’s doing a Google search. Sometimes his searches are amusing, but most of the time I’m amazed at what he knows how to do.

Yesterday I noticed him looking at pictures of Nerf rifles. In the search box he’d typed “Toy Nerf rifle to buy at a store”.  Later I saw he’d changed that to read “cool toys for 7 year old boys”. And sometime early last week I noticed in the search history that he’d searched for “grocery stores with toys for kids”.

He’s 7.

He doesn’t think about the toy catalog from Sears. He doesn’t watch Saturday morning cartoons so he doesn’t see those commercials. And he doesn’t get comic books or magazines by mail. Nope. He knows everything he wants to buy can be found on the internet.

Picture him 10 years down the road. . . when he has a car, a job, money and actual needs.  Where do you think he’ll turn to find things? The internet is now innate to his learning.

So if you’re a local business who is looking to compete down the road, consider what today’s 7 year olds are searching for on the internet. Since Google does a pretty good job of retrieving local results in their search listings,  you’ll have a small upper-hand over the competition.

But don’t think for a second that upper-hand will get you on page one without some strategy. If you’re a local department store, keep in mind he didn’t search for “Department Store” when he was looking for Nerf Rifles. That should get you thinking about the keywords you’re targeting.

In the future, I predict businesses with one website will be a thing of the past. If you sell multiple items, it will make much better sense to have separate websites for the different departments. If you have a “toy” section, why bury that information three layers deep on your website when you could have an entire website dedicated to your “toy department”?

Take lessons from today’s youth because tomorrow they’ll be your customers. (If they can find you, that is).

Marketing Plan Mistakes – A Hallmark Case Study

Sometimes I’m surprised that big companies like Hallmark can make huge marketing plan mistakes. But I was flabbergasted that Hallmark really blew a huge opportunity the other night during their broadcast of the November Christmas movie.

I’m a sap, I must say and heard my wife ask no fewer than 3 times if it was OK to watch the movie. She knew I’d get teary-eyed 10 – 15 times and I knew it, too. Those Hallmark movies are good for that. But Hallmark goes above and beyond these days, they buy almost all the ad time and fill it with sappy commercials too. [Read more...]

Social Media for Offline Business

Being a social media for offline business guy, I take special note when anything local businesses are doing online and making visible to the customer. This weekend I had the pleasure of dining at MaggieMoo’s on West End in Nashville and thought I’d share that experience.

MaggieMoo’s is the first place I’ve been where their social media marketing efforts have gone beyond a Facebook sticker on the door. For the first time ever, an employee contributed positively to their efforts (unlike my example at Daily’s Gas Station).

Next to the register they have an 8 x 11 stand-up flyer suggesting customers “like” them on Facebook (as you’re about to do with the button at the bottom of this post :)) – but they didn’t stop there. The employee actually pointed out the sign, suggested that I “like” them on Facebook and added “Do so before March 15th because we’re giving away free ice cream that day”.

[stextbox id="info"]Social Media Marketing is about 2 things:

  • Engagment and Community
  • Driving Traffic to take action[/stextbox]

What a breath of fresh air that was. Promotion, scarcity, likability and a knowledgeable employee. However, social media for offline business is still a leap. With 4 kids in tow, MaggieMoo’s was asking a lot of me to remember to go to Facebook and “like” them the next time I logged in. And since they didn’t gather my contact information, they didn’t have any way to remind me.

So at this point they’re relying on “hope”.

Unfortunately, hope comes into play again with their Facebook strategy as well. Since they haven’t uploaded any special, custom pages – they still don’t have a way to grab your contact information (which is the Gold in marketing). There’s no place to put your e-mail address or anything. And since you can’t message all your fans at the same time on Facebook – they don’t have a real good way to get me back to their FanPage – other than hope.

When you press “like” you’re taken directly to the wall where they pretty much post specials and promotions. I did find mention of the “free ice cream” down the page a bit, but there’s a disconnect immediately without seeing that promotion front and center.

That covers gathering contact information, but I’d also like to see them working to create more of a community on their page.  I love that they posted a photo of one of their truffle cakes, but I would like to have seen them “tag” the person whose party it was eaten at. Maybe even start a “tagging” promotion for people who upload their party photos.

I’d love to see discussions about the best ice cream cake stories, or messy kids with their ice cream cones.  Perhaps questions like what’s your favorite “mix-in” ice cream flavor, or name this mix-in recipe, or even stories of ice cream cakes that melted before they could get eaten.

Social media is about taking a group of unrelated customers and turning them into a community of fans. But a marketer must recognize the temporary nature of everything on the web. How good is 1,00o friends on MySpace right now? Without moving people from Facebook’s world to your own list – you end up with nothing for your efforts.

At least at MaggieMoo’s – you started out with great ice cream.

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Mistakes of search engine marketing

Typically I reserve this SEO case study information for my Dan’s Notes, but I thought I’d turn it into today’s blog post. Mistakes of search engine marketing attempts will certainly lead to no traffic. So here’s some tips to help you for sure.

I met with a group who needed marketing help this week, but they said they didn’t need SEO help – they needed Social Media help. That sounded fun, but after meeting with them, I realized they needed something I don’t do.

They needed someone to start and manage their social media. I don’t think any company should have an outsider speaking for them in the social media sphere so I can help them with the structure, design and strategy but they’ll have to do the social media interactions on their own .

I did send them some tips about their website SEO though, and thought I’d include them here.

WEBSITE PAGE NAME

I stumbled around the site for a category page to see how it was optimized. This was the url of that page: (I changed the site name so that link shouldn’t work).

http://www.holydoly.com/categories/281

Category pages are great pages to optimize for the search engines  because they see new content when anything new is added to that category.  However, their page wasn’t optimized for anything so let’s take a look at some things you could do.

Let’s start with their URL (http://www.holydoly.com/categories/281). Their site is about Gourmet Foods so the keyword Gourmet Foods should be in the url. Try something like  http://www.holydoly.com/gourmetfoods/ or http://www.holydoly.com/category/gourmetfoods/

TITLE BAR AND KEYWORDS

Secondly, the title tag (the words you see at the very top of the computer screen) reads: Gourmet Foods, by Holydoly – Your Source For Luxury Shops Online

Other than Gourmet Foods, none of those other terms are relevant to that category page. The title tag bar is more useful to search engines than buyers, so optimize it for the organic searchers. One of the mistakes of search engine marketing is to ignore how people search and assume you know what’s best.

And unfortunately, Gourmet Food and Gourmet Foods are really too difficult to compete in with a retail site. The other problem with the term Gourmet Foods is that it is a really broad term. Buyers start searching with wide terms and then narrow the search the closer they are to buying. Gourmet Foods is that “first search”.

Better, more targeted and easier to dominate keywords would include:

  • Gourmet food stores
  • Gourmet food retailers
  • Gourmet food gift basket(s)
  • Gourmet food online

These are the terms I’d focus on for this page. I’d then change the title tag to something like:

Gourmet Food Gift Basket | Gourmet Food Stores Online (you don’t need the name of your company in the title tag on a category page)

INCOMING LINKS

Now this is going to be a bit more advanced, but it is important. You really want to rank in the search engines for all four of those terms. So when you link to your site from other sites, use those terms as the text that links back. We call that anchor text.

[stextbox id="info"]The words SEO Tips in this sentence are the anchor text links that lead back to this page.[/stextbox]

One other thing, they don’t have any meaningful text on the page, just pictures of the products they’re selling. If you add a description on the page at the top, you’ll be able to use your keywords on the page. And a description can help build a story and pre-sell these items. I’d suggest having between 350 – 500 words per page – even if that means the text is scattered amongst the photos.

OPTIMIZING PHOTOS

Images need to be optimized. I right-clicked on a photo on the site and pressed “view photo”. The url at the top said:

    http://www.holydoly.com/images/HomePagePhotoRetouched.jpg

If you found that photo on their computer, it has the name HomePagePhotoRetouched.jpg, but the photo itself was of gourmet wine. They need go back to the photo on their computer and rename it gourmet-foods-wine-online.jpg or something like that – and then upload that to their website. (there probably are better gourmet wine keywords than that).

Other than some additional information about the internal linking structure of their site, that’s pretty much what we discussed. If you can think of some other general SEO tips to look for onpage, leave a comment. Otherwise, sign up for Dan’s Notes (below) and read more about our meetings.

Marketing to non-customers

No matter how many small businesses we meet with, not everyone will use our services. Some companies really just want the DIY Internet Marketing tools. Others want to hire us but really have a hard time expending any money whether it be marketing dollars or cash register receipt tape.

It’s these companies that we’ve decided to serve better.  We’re in the process of creating content for our newest venture http://onlinemarketingedge.com. OME, as we call it, will be a do it yourself site. The goal is to provide the tools to small businesses that they’ll need to turn the internet into a revenue center.

Since some companies are really DIY oriented, our products are going to be easy for them to navigate. For instance we just created a 30 page “how to dominate Google Places” report. It goes through everything from how to find out if a page already exists for your company to -once it is set-up- how to encourage customers to leave great reviews there.

Internet marketing is a whole new world to most small business owners. In fact, marketing for some of these small businesses is getting the fax from the Yellow Pages and initialing it for them to print it. That’s it. Sometimes you’ll find a company that regularly advertises in the local youth baseball stadium Program, or ValPak kit. But most just find everything in the internet world to be foreign and a bit scary.

But that brings us to the importance of what we’re doing, which is why we’re doing it. How many people come into your store, visit your website, call your 800 number, take a free sample, call and ask a question, or any other activity that doesn’t involve them buying something or “becoming a customer”?

And how many of those people do you ever see again?

The bottom line is this . . . those people have already raised their hand and have declared they’re interested in what you do. They might not be in the buying mood – but they’re interested. Some of them want what you’re offering but it just might be too expensive for their state of mind. Does that mean you should dismiss them?

We think not. Despite wanting to serve those customers in our traditional method, we’ve decided it better to be of service period, than nothing at all. So our DIY site is that. It’s our chance to be of service to those who just weren’t ready.

To some extent we do that now with Dan’s Notes, which you can subscribe to here. That’s a collection of internet marketing tips and ideas from my weekly meetings. But it’s not exactly a “how-to” guide. OME will be the how-to. It will be the step-by-step, screen shots, 1-2-3 how-to document that will get them from nothing to nothing less than famous.

In providing this kind of information, we hope the knowledge we provide our new DIY customers will be enough to move the nickel, someday. But if it isn’t – perhaps they’ll appreciate the help. Who doesn’t need prospective future clients who are already – appreciative? But most important of all – there’s no better way to get a prospective customer to come back than to give them what they need . . . now.

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Don’t Take Notes At NAMS Like You’re Still In College

Guest Post By Susanne Myers

Daily Affiliate Tasks

Most of us learned how to take notes in high school and college. You write down the most important facts, dates etc. and then commit them to memory before the next test. The main focus is to listen and capture the most important points your professor or teacher made.

Taking notes at an Internet Marketing Conference like NAMS is very different. There’s no need to transcribe each lesson and note all the facts because:

    1) There isn’t a test at the end (no matter what some instructors will tell you).
    2) If you’re staying at the hotel, you’ll get recordings of all sessions.
    3) It’s not the facts and figures that matter.

[Read more...]

Podcamp Nashville: Untapped Local Resource

Podcamp Nashville is one of the largest Podcamp events nationwide, did you know that? As a local resource for social marketing and all things internet, it’s almost like the Internet Knowledge Superbowl here in town. There really isn’t anything bigger or better (unless you count its sister event, Barcamp Nashville).

But have you heard of it?

In the same breath, we meet with local businesses all the time who need help growing their business. 99% of the ones we meet with weekly just don’t know anything about the power of the internet. I might as well be speaking Greek when I start talking about the utility of autoresponders, squeeze pages, e-mail parsing and WordPress. And amazingly, that goes for the students we spend time with at our local Universities, too.

This stuff just isn’t common knowledge yet.

And while the media’s advertising and marketing folks are learning how to use these tools to benefit their companies, the innovators or innovations of these tools rarely make ripples in our popular culture. You can almost credit Steve Jobs alone for getting iPad launch events into the news. Can you imagine if they had done that 20 years ago for every new PDA launch from Palm?

Unfortunately the only people who get hurt by the relative anonymity of Podcamp is the small business owners. From our seminars and presentations, we know small business owners are eating up every piece of content they can in hopes of learning how to increase their revenue. But their time is very limited. And its the stuff you learn at Podcamp that can really change the revenue model of small businesses.

With that I charge you this task. If you know a savvy small business owner (plumber, CPA, hair stylist, etc. . . ), drag them to Podcamp Nashville.  These are not easy economic times, yet in the span of one day you can open up to them a world they never knew existed.

Imagine if the local bird seed guy walks away from Podcamp Nashville having found a new way to drive customers into his store? What if that guy starts a podcast that garners 5,000 “bird feeding” enthusiasts over the next year and from that he hires two more people? Now we’re talking about changing lives with one afternoon.

If you serve local businesses, call all your prospects – the people whose business you’d like to earn. Give them the opportunity to enrich themselves with Podcamp’s information wealth. Perhaps it is only vision that they lack in moving forward with your company. Podcamp is about vision – it’s about hearing and seeing what is possible. Some people say “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever”.

I say “Give a man a blog and he’s thankful, take him to Podcamp Nashville and he’ll see what is possible.” That’s when business relationships change, too.

Podcamp Nashville is an untapped resource for local business owners in Nashville. If you know someone who’s hungry to help his business grow, bringing them to Podcamp may change that business’s future forever. Please, check out the Podcamp Nashville website, register, and read about the sessions. But don’t worry about finding the Check Out Page or the Session Pricing Page. Those pages aren’t there – Podcamp is free!

Tell me again why you couldn’t convince a small business owner to attend?

(Register for my meeting notes, and you’ll get all my Podcamp notes, new ninja tricks and insights the following week. Sign-up below)

 

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The 11.6 Hour Twitter Virus – Warning!

The 11.6 Hour Twitter virus is definitely something you want to avoid. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s in a tweet that says  “I have spent 11.6 hours on Twitter. How much have you? Find out here.”

There’s a link in the message that leads to an application called “Time on Tweeter”. This app asks for authorization to your Twitter information then starts sending out that message without your consent.

This is the kind of “prank” that seems to be popping up a lot lately on different social media sites and is a reason to be very careful about what you click on, and what you give access to your accounts.

From a business perspective, it’s much more than a prank. These “twitter viruses” send out tweets from your account annoying your customers, and harming your brand. That’s not the kind of company you want to be.

Solve this 11.6 Hour Twitter Virus problem:

If you’ve fallen victim to this scam, you should immediately revoke Twitter access to all suspicious applications. To do that, log into Twitter, click on “Settings” in the upper-right drop-down menu, choose “Connections” and click “Revoke Access” on suspicious apps — which, in this case, is the app named “Time on Tweeter.”

To prevent the problems that could arise with a Twitter account like:

  • Not being able to log-in
  • Not knowing who at Twitter to contact for support
  • How to stop spammers

Check out my free Twitter Glitch Action Guide at http://twittrglitch.com