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Small Business Saturday® is November 24 – Are You Ready?

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 08:30

Small Business Saturday® is just around the corner and we've got tips to help you think big about this awesome day dedicated to shopping small.

What is it exactly? Small Business Saturday® is a day dedicated to shopping and buying from locally owned small businesses. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, right when consumers are revving up for the holiday shopping season.

Spearheaded by American Express OPEN Forum, the first Small Business Saturday® launched in 2010. Since then, it's turned into a bona fide national movement.

Check out these stats: 

  • 103 million people shopped at small businesses on Small Business Saturday® in 2011
  • Participating small businesses saw a 23 percent increase in transactions last year on Small Business Saturday®
  • Small Business Saturday® has 2.8 million “likers” on its Facebook Page.
  • 200,000 tweets about Small Business Saturday® were circulating around the Twittersphere last year

Potential customers will be out in force supporting and looking to “shop small” for the holidays, hence getting involved/participating should be high on your to-do list.

Where to start?

Head over to our new Small Business Saturday® microsite and load up on lots of free marketing tips and resources, including:

  • A week-by-week checklist to help you prep for the big day (11/24)
  • A variety of Small Business Saturday®-themed email marketing templates, so you can let your customers and subscribers know you’re participating (and send them an awesome offer if they buy from you that day)
  • Pre-written tweets and posts that you can publish on Facebook and Twitter
  • Lots of other marketing goodies

What are you doing and/or offering to get those registers ringing on November 24? We'd love to hear!

 

Posted by Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @sungmoyle.

Small Business Saturday® is November 24 – Are You Ready?

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 06:00

Small Business Saturday® is just around the corner and we’ve got tips to help you think big about this awesome day dedicated to shopping small.

What is it exactly? Small Business Saturday® is a day where people make a point to shop and buy from locally owned small businesses. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, right when consumers are revving up for the holiday shopping season.

Spearheaded by American Express OPEN Forum, the first Small Business Saturday® launched in 2010. Since then, it’s turned into a bona fide national movement.

Check out these stats:

  • 103 million people shopped at small businesses on Small Business Saturday® in 2011
  • Participating small businesses saw a 23 percent increase in transactions last year on Small Business Saturday®
  • Small Business Saturday® has 2.8 million “likers” on its Facebook Page.
  • 200,000 tweets about Small Business Saturday® were circulating around the Twittersphere last year

Potential customers will be out in force supporting and looking to “shop small” for the holidays, hence getting involved/participating should be high on your to-do list.

Where to start?

Head over to our new Small Business Saturday microsite and load up on lots of free marketing tips and resources, including:

  • A week-by-week checklist to help you prep for the big day (November 24)
  • A variety of Small Business Saturday®-themed email and event marketing templates, so you can let your customers and subscribers know you’re participating (and send them an awesome offer if they buy from you that day)
  • Pre-written tweets and posts that you can publish on Facebook and Twitter
  • A photo contest to show off your small business (winner gets a $100 American Express gift card and 5,000 VerticalResponse email marketing credits)
  • Lots of other marketing goodies

What are you doing and/or offering to get those registers ringing on November 24? We’d love to hear!

The post Small Business Saturday® is November 24 – Are You Ready? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Decipher the Online Display Advertising Landscape

Mon, 11/05/2012 - 06:00

Online display advertising can be highly effective for branding and targeting customers. According to Wikipedia, “display advertisers use cookie and browser history to determine demographics and interests of users and target appropriate ads to those browsers.” Implementing display ads into your online marketing strategy can obviously get your message in front of your most intrigued audience. However, understanding the “display advertising technology landscape” can be a challenge when deciding who, or what, to use to grow your business online.

As the display ad landscape (which includes agencies, media buying platforms, publishers, ad exchanges/networks and more) evolves and new players come into the market, it only becomes more complex. To make life easier, here’s a cheat sheet (courtesy of LUMA Partners) to help guide you through the growing ecosystem of online display advertising:

Looks like quite a list, eh? You may be asking yourself, who are these companies, what do they do, and how do you use them? Let’s break it down, cover a few things to keep in mind, and walk through the basics to get you started.

Agencies

If you decide to work with an agency, finding the right the one is important to the success of your campaign. The agency should serve as your partner; it’s important they understand your company’s needs and help you accomplish your goals. A few things to consider: the history of the agency, expertise, cost, what they offer, and who will be on the team… are they a good fit? Check out the chart above for a few agencies you might want to consider.

Agency Trading Desks

Trading desks are often used by an agency or marketing department to buy and manage online media. Forrester Research describes a buying platform as, “A centralized, service-based organization that serves as a managed service layer, typically on top of licensed demand side platform and other audience buying technologies.” You can see an example of the agencies that have trading desks in the chart above. They can offer benefits such as  better targeting and hopefully ROI on dollars invested.

Publishers

Publishers are owners of a web property. If you decide to buy directly, you can work with the publisher to help accomplish your goals. Ask a lot of questions, and always negotiate price. Voice your concerns if you don’t see the results you were hoping for. Publishers don’t want to lose your media dollars, and they’ll work hard to ensure your campaign is a success. Consider the following: Do you have the right mix in place? Are you targeting the correct audience? Does your messaging and creative align with your audience?

Ad Exchanges

Ad exchanges are a marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of inventory. Ad exchanges were developed to provide advertisers better access and control over ad inventory. A familiar and commonly used ad exchange is DoubleClick. Transparency and control is in your hands here vs. using an Ad Network where you don’t always know which site might be serving your ad. Here’s a quick comparison of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) vs. Ad Exchanges.

Ad Networks

Ad Networks run display ads across various online publishers, providing access to more online inventory. Think about your media mix and test a few networks to see how they each compare in regards to inventory, scale and performance. Advertisers generally like to have a variety of networks in their campaigns. Look for unique inventory and overlapping between networks. According to their latest research, comScore Media Metrix ranks Google Ad Network #1 with a 92.6% reach, Specific Media 85.8%, Vibrant Media 84.7%, AOL Advertising 84.1% and AT&T AdWorks 82.4%.

As you take a look at the growing display ad landscape, evaluate each of the players with your business needs in mind. You should build a strategy around a mix of them to get you closer to your customers and your goals.

Can’t get enough? Here are a couple more marketing landscapes for Search and Mobile.

Sources:

The post How to Decipher the Online Display Advertising Landscape appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Decipher the Online Display Advertising Landscape

Mon, 11/05/2012 - 06:00

Online display advertising can be highly effective for branding and targeting customers. According to Wikipedia, "display advertisers use cookie and browser history to determine demographics and interests of users and target appropriate ads to those browsers." Implementing display ads into your online marketing strategy can obviously get your message in front of your most intrigued audience. However, understanding the "display advertising technology landscape" can be a challenge when deciding who, or what, to use to grow your business online. 

As the display ad landscape (which includes agencies, media buying platforms, publishers, ad exchanges/networks and more) evolves and new players come into the market, it only becomes more complex. To make life easier, here's a cheat sheet (courtesy of LUMA Partners) to help guide you through the growing ecosystem of online display advertising:

 

Looks like quite a list, eh? You may be asking yourself, who are these companies, what do they do, and how do you use them? Let's break it down, cover a few things to keep in mind, and walk through the basics to get you started.

Agencies

If you decide to work with an agency, finding the right the one is important to the success of your campaign. The agency should serve as your partner; it's important they understand your company's needs and help you accomplish your goals. A few things to consider: the history of the agency, expertise, cost, what they offer, and who will be on the team... are they a good fit? Check out the chart above for a few agencies you might want to consider. 

Agency Trading Desks

Trading desks are often used by an agency or marketing department to buy and manage online media. Forrester Research describes a buying platform as, "A centralized, service-based organization that serves as a managed service layer, typically on top of licensed demand side platform and other audience buying technologies." You can see an example of the agencies that have trading desks in the chart above. They can offer benefits such as  better targeting and hopefully ROI on dollars invested.

Publishers

Publishers are owners of a web property. If you decide to buy directly, you can work with the publisher to help accomplish your goals. Ask a lot of questions, and always negotiate price. Voice your concerns if you don’t see the results you were hoping for. Publishers don’t want to lose your media dollars, and they'll work hard to ensure your campaign is a success. Consider the following: Do you have the right mix in place? Are you targeting the correct audience? Does your messaging and creative align with your audience?

Ad Exchanges

Ad exchanges are a marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of inventory. Ad exchanges were developed to provide advertisers better access and control over ad inventory. A familiar and commonly used ad exchange is DoubleClick. Transparency and control is in your hands here vs. using an Ad Network where you don’t always know which site might be serving your ad. Here's a quick comparison of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) vs. Ad Exchanges.   

Ad Networks

Ad Networks run display ads across various online publishers, providing access to more online inventory. Think about your media mix and test a few networks to see how they each compare in regards to inventory, scale and performance. Advertisers generally like to have a variety of networks in their campaigns. Look for unique inventory and overlapping between networks. According to their latest research, comScore Media Metrix ranks Google Ad Network #1 with a 92.6% reach, Specific Media 85.8%, Vibrant Media 84.7%, AOL Advertising 84.1% and AT&T AdWorks 82.4%. 


As you take a look at the growing display ad landscape, evaluate each of the players with your business needs in mind. You should build a strategy around a mix of them to get you closer to your customers and your goals.

Can’t get enough? Here are a couple more marketing landscapes for Search and Mobile.


Sources:  

 

Posted by Michelle Carranza

Michelle is an Online Marketing Specialist at VerticalResponse. 

What Makes Customers Tick

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

At VerticalResponse, we don’t get a lot of face-to-face time with our small business and non-profit customers. I
hate that. Since we’re an online marketing solution, we really only get ear-to-ear or chat-to-chat (online) with them, not in person. With over 100,000 customers, it’s not easy and quite expensive to do big live events when you’re only charging them $10 a month to use your service.

Right now we are building some really interesting tools that will definitely change the way our customers use and think of VerticalResponse. I’ve got a pretty good gut feeling when it comes to features our customers need, because I run a small business myself. But you can’t always rely on just gut, especially when you’re spending a nice chunk of money on what you’re building.

A few weeks ago, I decided that it was time to reach out and get a check on that “gut feel.”

So we invited 15 or so of our customers to our offices, paid them $300 for the day, fed them and asked them questions about their business and ours. It was an amazing experience for both our team as well as for them. They got to meet other people experiencing the same things in totally different industries, and we got to hear in-depth what makes them tick.

We started off by asking them to introduce themselves, their businesses and one interesting thing about themselves. It was a great ice breaker! We had a businesswoman who teaches hula dancing on the side and an animator who does tequila tastings! A lot of fun.

We then launched into what we were hoping to get out of them. We asked a ton of questions, including:

  1. What was important to them in their businesses?
  2. What are all the ways they communicated to their customers?
  3. What were their pain points?
  4. How did they spend money on customer interaction?
  5. What did they like and hate about our online marketing tools?

Over the course of two hours, we got an earful. (We had several product development employees taking copious notes in the back of the room, of course.) This is where we learn over and over what the top 10 percent of the issues are with our business that we can attack!

We then showed them what was important to us in our business, and what we’re planning for the future to get a sense of how they felt about the changes. We pulled up screenshots of our future product and gave them the ability to give us input on what they thought about what they were viewing. Fortunately, 90 percent of their feedback had already been anticipated by our product team, so we are already building them in. Phew, we had hoped they’d say that!

The takeaway here: Although they take a bit of money, time and resources, meeting with your customers from time to time is super important, especially if you do business online. It’s easy for an online company to drift away from the “human” aspect of serving its customers. Having a discussion about what works, what doesn’t and what they want from you is essential to making sure your business is on the right track.

For us, now we can go off and make sure that we’re addressing exactly what our customers need. And it only cost us some nice food and a few thousand bucks. I know they’re going to be happy with what we’re building, and that’s all that matters to us.

How close are you with what your customers need?

The post What Makes Customers Tick appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What Makes Customers Tick

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

At VerticalResponse, we don't get a lot of face-to-face time with our small business and non-profit customers. I hate that. Since we're an online marketing solution, we really only get ear-to-ear or chat-to-chat (online) with them, not in person. With over 100,000 customers, it's not easy and quite expensive to do big live events when you're only charging them $10 a month to use your service.

Right now we are building some really interesting tools that will definitely change the way our customers use and think of VerticalResponse. I've got a pretty good gut feeling when it comes to features our customers need, because I run a small business myself. But you can't always rely on just gut, especially when you're spending a nice chunk of money on what you're building.

A few weeks ago, I decided that it was time to reach out and get a check on that "gut feel."

So we invited 15 or so of our customers to our offices, paid them $300 for the day, fed them and asked them questions about their business and ours. It was an amazing experience for both our team as well as for them. They got to meet other people experiencing the same things in totally different industries, and we got to hear in-depth what makes them tick.

We started off by asking them to introduce themselves, their businesses and one interesting thing about themselves. It was a great ice breaker! We had a businesswoman who teaches hula dancing on the side and an animator who does tequila tastings! A lot of fun.

We then launched into what we were hoping to get out of them. We asked a ton of questions, including:

  1. What was important to them in their businesses?
  2. What are all the ways they communicated to their customers?
  3. What were their pain points?
  4. How did they spend money on customer interaction?
  5. What did they like and hate about our online marketing tools?

Over the course of two hours, we got an earful. (We had several product development employees taking copious notes in the back of the room, of course.) This is where we learn over and over what the top 10 percent of the issues are with our business that we can attack!

We then showed them what was important to us in our business, and what we're planning for the future to get a sense of how they felt about the changes. We pulled up screenshots of our future product and gave them the ability to give us input on what they thought about what they were viewing. Fortunately, 90 percent of their feedback had already been anticipated by our product team, so we are already building them in. Phew, we had hoped they'd say that!

The takeaway here: Although they take a bit of money, time and resources, meeting with your customers from time to time is super important, especially if you do business online. It's easy for an online company to drift away from the "human" aspect of serving its customers. Having a discussion about what works, what doesn't and what they want from you is essential to making sure your business is on the right track.

For us, now we can go off and make sure that we're addressing exactly what our customers need. And it only cost us some nice food and a few thousand bucks. I know they're going to be happy with what we're building, and that's all that matters to us.

How close are you with what your customers need?

 

Posted by Janine Popick

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick, and check out more of her Inc.com columns.

Echos from Dreamforce: How Social, Leadership & SMBs Will Drive Our Economy

Wed, 10/31/2012 - 06:00

A few weeks ago, a little event took place in San Francisco that you may have heard of called Dreamforce, thrown by a little boutique CRM company by the name of Salesforce. Tongue in cheek aside, VerticalResponse team members were on deck for this year’s annual SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) event. In addition to the usual schmooz… er, networking, I personally got the chance to attend informative and instructive keynotes, featuring some of the brightest minds in our industry. The keynote that left the most lasting impression, however, would be the conversation between Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State (2000-2004); Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE); and keynote moderator, Salesforce’s CEO, Marc Benioff. Regardless of your political views or the size of your business, there were great nuggets of information distilled by these three heavyweights. Here are some of the fascinating insights:

Social: The Best Thing to Happen to the Internet since… the Internet?

Let’s sit back for a second and consider: ever since the army flipped the switch on the world wide web back in the ’70s (“I am proud to say that it was the U.S. Armed Forces that developed the Internet,” beamed Gen. Powell, “We gotta get a little credit for that.”), has anything revolutionized the way we connect with other people until the likes of Facebook or Twitter?

For Jeff Immelt, the biggest challenges he’s currently facing at GE are fighting size and bureaucracy, but social media gives him direct access to customers and employees, allowing him to conquer barriers that previously existed. For instance, using Salesforce Chatter, Immelt can now chime in on sales issues whenever he sees fit. In addition, for the past two years he has maintained his own corporate blog, in which he speaks frankly to employees, bypassing GE’s general counsel review before posting. ”Today organizations move too slowly,” he said. “By using technology, I think you can move faster. You get more transparency. You get more access.”

Colin Powell has also wholeheartedly embraced the use of social media, posting regularly on Facebook and interacting with his 68,000+ followers (at time of writing). Based on the skill sets younger generations bring into either the military or the State Department, Powell believes social networks have allowed us to speed up the way we work.

“We’re moving so fast that we have to respond to every bit of data that comes in,” which has to be acted on immediately. ”You better keep up with them,” he advised, “they’re not going to keep up with you.

But even though we want to be literate in our use of new technologies, Powell cautioned that we need to be very protective of them as well. ”There are dangers with this revolution, where we are so interconnected that perhaps we are too interconnected [...] You have to have channels in place to distribute the information in a safe and secure way, but make sure it is usable without overwhelming the whole system.”

Leading Through Inspiration, Not Motivation

Both interviewees displayed an understanding of social media’s strategic significance, as well as its tactical power, and agreed that leaders around the world have a critical part to play in this digital revolution. The challenge that faces any leader, from political leaders in the Middle East to corporate CEOs, is the understanding and integration of social media into pretty much everything. ”I think any leader has to have his or her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the information revolution, the pulse of international economic system,” said Powell.

However, even as technology takes on an ever growing presence in companies, leaders need to ensure their employees remain the heart of the organization. As the General stated, “The best leaders understand that human beings are more important than the information system or the tools and robotic systems – they are the most important part of any organization.” Powell went on to elaborate on his own leadership philosophy, stating, “I no longer use the word motivate,’ I say ‘inspire.’ [...] The most important thing is to create organizations that are high-performing that believe in themselves.” Self-motivated people can always be expected to perform at an extremely high level. On the flip side, leaders who don’t provide such inspiration and who fail to foster self-motivation among their employees can pay a steep price: ”They’ll undercut you every day, and you’ll turn your head and it will fall off,” he quipped.

Immelt concurred, listing three core qualities he believes every leader should possess: “Openness - There is no going back in this information age, you have to be willing to share more and you better just deal with it. Authenticity - People don’t want to work for a phony. They want to be mission-based, they want to believe in what they are doing, believe in a leader. Unity - People want to be on teams, it’s always been that way.”

Small-to-Mid-Sized Businesses, the Key to Revitalizing Today’s Economy?

Finally, the speakers shared their thoughts on the global economic climate, with both men reiterating the importance of creating new jobs. Essentially, they agreed these new jobs come from encouraging fast-growing companies and entrepreneurs. ”Government does not create jobs,” said Immelt. “What you want is for government to create the structure on which entrepreneurs can create jobs.” In order to get there, it’s important to train people for the roles that are being sought after by companies, taking advantage of the great colleges and universities at our disposal; simplify today’s economic regulations; and set a new tone, explicitly tell people it’s good to invest in start-ups and small businesses. Citing the Silicon Valley mentality as an example, “Don’t worry about the money, just build stuff and go beat your competitors.” He concluded, “This situation is imminently solvable.”

The former Secretary was optimistic as well, believing that the cynicism reigning in political circles wasn’t necessarily reflected in other parts of the country. Powell reaffirmed that we should be looking forward, not backward, and that education and encouraging entrepreneurship would be playing essential roles in the years to come: ”The jobs that are gone are not necessarily going to come back. We have to create new jobs and go up in the ladder of sophistication. We better start educating our kids for the jobs that are really going to be here in the United States.” He also looped back to how everything is connected, that companies need to realize we are now living in “an international economy,” which makes the need to fully understand the international economic system all the more vital.

So there you have it – The opinions of some of the most powerful and influential men on the planet on how to handle today’s ever-evolving technology landscape, and how to give a still recovering economy a much-needed shot in the arm. What does this mean to you as a small-business owner? Well, quite a few things:

  • Social is still the rage: Not only is social media not over-the-hill, there is considerable potential just waiting to be tapped. Companies are still learning and finding new ways to take advantage of social to boost their business, and if you can be innovative, you can give yourself a serious leg up on your competition.
  • Cultivate a “winning” culture: If you have people on your payroll, set “stretch” goals and give them projects that will inspire them to strive and exceed expectations. Challenging your employees to test their limits, providing encouragement when they come close, and rewarding their efforts when they succeed, only creates a positive, stimulating environment for your team.
  • It gets better: We know how stressful it can be to run a business (we’ve been – and still are – there). Thankfully, based on this keynote and others, it sounds like things are about to get a lot more interesting for entrepreneurs and SMBs in the very near future.

Do you agree, disagree, or are you indifferent to any of the above statements and viewpoints? Share away in the comments!

Additional quotes courtesy of the Salesforce Blog.

The post Echos from Dreamforce: How Social, Leadership & SMBs Will Drive Our Economy appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Echos from Dreamforce: How Social, Leadership & SMBs Will Drive our Economy

Wed, 10/31/2012 - 06:00
2 CEOs and a former Secretary of State walk onto a stage...(photo courtesy of Salesforce)

A few weeks ago, a little event took place in San Francisco that you may have heard of called Dreamforce, thrown by a little boutique CRM company by the name of Salesforce. Tongue in cheek aside, VerticalResponse team members were on deck for this year's annual SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) event. In addition to the usual schmooz... er, networking, I personally got the chance to attend informative and instructive keynotes, featuring some of the brightest minds in our industry. The keynote that left the most lasting impression, however, would be the conversation between Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State (2000-2004); Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE); and keynote moderator, Salesforce's CEO, Marc Benioff. Regardless of your political views or the size of your business, there were great nuggets of information distilled by these three heavyweights. Here are some of the fascinating insights:

Social: The Best Thing to Happen to the Internet since... the Internet?

Let's sit back for a second and consider: ever since the army flipped the switch on the world wide web back in the '70s ("I am proud to say that it was the U.S. Armed Forces that developed the Internet," beamed Gen. Powell, "We gotta get a little credit for that."), has anything revolutionized the way we connect with other people until the likes of Facebook or Twitter? 

For Jeff Immelt, the biggest challenges he's currently facing at GE are fighting size and bureaucracy, but social media gives him direct access to customers and employees, allowing him to conquer barriers that previously existed. For instance, using Salesforce Chatter, Immelt can now chime in on sales issues whenever he sees fit. In addition, for the past two years he has maintained his own corporate blog, in which he speaks frankly to employees, bypassing GE’s general counsel review before posting. "Today organizations move too slowly," he said. "By using technology, I think you can move faster. You get more transparency. You get more access."

Colin Powell has also wholeheartedly embraced the use of social media, posting regularly on Facebook and interacting with his 68,000+ followers (at time of writing). Based on the skill sets younger generations bring into either the military or the State Department, Powell believes social networks have allowed us to speed up the way we work.

"We're moving so fast that we have to respond to every bit of data that comes in," which has to be acted on immediately. "You better keep up with them," he advised, "they're not going to keep up with you."

But even though we want to be literate in our use of new technologies, Powell cautioned that we need to be very protective of them as well. "There are dangers with this revolution, where we are so interconnected that perhaps we are too interconnected [...] You have to have channels in place to distribute the information in a safe and secure way, but make sure it is usable without overwhelming the whole system."

Leading Through Inspiration, Not Motivation

Both interviewees displayed an understanding of social media's strategic significance, as well as its tactical power, and agreed that leaders around the world have a critical part to play in this digital revolution. The challenge that faces any leader, from political leaders in the Middle East to corporate CEOs, is the understanding and integration of social media into pretty much everything. "I think any leader has to have his or her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the information revolution, the pulse of international economic system," said Powell. 

However, even as technology takes on an ever growing presence in companies, leaders need to ensure their employees remain the heart of the organization. As the General stated, "The best leaders understand that human beings are more important than the information system or the tools and robotic systems - they are the most important part of any organization." Powell went on to elaborate on his own leadership philosophy, stating, "I no longer use the word motivate,' I say 'inspire.' [...] The most important thing is to create organizations that are high-performing that believe in themselves." Self-motivated people can always be expected to perform at an extremely high level. On the flip side, leaders who don't provide such inspiration and who fail to foster self-motivation among their employees can pay a steep price: "They'll undercut you every day, and you'll turn your head and it will fall off," he quipped.

Immelt concurred, listing three core qualities he believes every leader should possess: "Openness - There is no going back in this information age, you have to be willing to share more and you better just deal with it. Authenticity - People don’t want to work for a phony. They want to be mission-based, they want to believe in what they are doing, believe in a leader. Unity - People want to be on teams, it's always been that way."

Small-to-Mid-Sized Businesses, the Key to Revitalizing Today's Economy?

Finally, the speakers shared their thoughts on the global economic climate, with both men reiterating the importance of creating new jobs. Essentially, they agreed these new jobs come from encouraging fast-growing companies and entrepreneurs. "Government does not create jobs," said Immelt. "What you want is for government to create the structure on which entrepreneurs can create jobs." In order to get there, it's important to train people for the roles that are being sought after by companies, taking advantage of the great colleges and universities at our disposal; simplify today's economic regulations; and set a new tone, explicitly tell people it's good to invest in start-ups and small businesses. Citing the Silicon Valley mentality as an example, "Don't worry about the money, just build stuff and go beat your competitors." He concluded, "This situation is imminently solvable."

The former Secretary was optimistic as well, believing that the cynicism reigning in political circles wasn't necessarily reflected in other parts of the country. Powell reaffirmed that we should be looking forward, not backward, and that education and encouraging entrepreneurship would be playing essential roles in the years to come: "The jobs that are gone are not necessarily going to come back. We have to create new jobs and go up in the ladder of sophistication. We better start educating our kids for the jobs that are really going to be here in the United States." He also looped back to how everything is connected, that companies need to realize we are now living in "an international economy," which makes the need to fully understand the international economic system all the more vital. 

So there you have it - The opinions of some of the most powerful and influential men on the planet on how to handle today's ever-evolving technology landscape, and how to give a still recovering economy a much-needed shot in the arm. What does this mean to you as a small-business owner? Well, quite a few things:

  • Social is still the rage: Not only is social media not over-the-hill, there is considerable potential just waiting to be tapped. Companies are still learning and finding new ways to take advantage of social to boost their business, and if you can be innovative, you can give yourself a serious leg up on your competition.
  • Cultivate a "winning" culture: If you have people on your payroll, set "stretch" goals and give them projects that will inspire them to strive and exceed expectations. Challenging your employees to test their limits, providing encouragement when they come close, and rewarding their efforts when they succeed, only creates a positive, stimulating environment for your team.
  • It gets better: We know how stressful it can be to run a business (we've been - and still are - there). Thankfully, based on this keynote and others, it sounds like things are about to get a lot more interesting for entrepreneurs and SMBs in the very near future. 

Do you agree, disagree, or are you indifferent to any of the above statements and viewpoints? Share away in the comments!

Additional quotes courtesy of the Salesforce Blog.  

 

Posted by My Truong

My Truong is the Marketing Programs Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter @PtitMy.

How Much Time, Money Do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media? [Infographic]

Tue, 10/30/2012 - 14:27

We just wrapped up a survey asking almost 500 of our small business customers how much time and money they spend on social media (if you participated, thank you!). We asked how many hours small business owners or employees dedicate to various social media activities, from finding and sharing content to blogging, we wanted to know what tasks take the most time, and what platforms small businesses are most active on. We also inquired about marketing and social media budgets, and how much money is spent on tools to manage and analyze social media efforts.

After crunching a lot of numbers and staring at dozens of pie charts, the survey results suggest the following…

Small businesses:

  • Spend more time on social media, but
    many struggle with the added workload.
  • Focus on Facebook and Twitter, while
    adoption of Pinterest and Google+ remains slow.
  • Realize the value of content – but, again, time is an issue.
  • Find value in paying for social media tools.

Here’s a fun and informative infographic that we created (as seen on Forbes, VentureBeat, Technorati and more) illustrating some of the key data that led to these four conclusions:

UPDATE 10/31/2012: Here’s our press release with more details!

The post How Much Time, Money Do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media? [Infographic] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How Much Time, Money Do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media? [Infographic]

Tue, 10/30/2012 - 14:27

We just wrapped up a survey asking almost 500 of our small business customers how much time and money they spend on social media (if you participated, thank you!). We asked how many hours small business owners or employees dedicate to various social media activities, from finding and sharing content to blogging, we wanted to know what tasks take the most time, and what platforms small businesses are most active on. We also inquired about marketing and social media budgets, and how much money is spent on tools to manage and analyze social media efforts.

After crunching a lot of numbers and staring at dozens of pie charts, the survey results suggest the following...

Small businesses:

  • Spend more time on social media, but many struggle with the added workload.
     
  • Focus on Facebook and Twitter, while adoption of Pinterest and Google+ remains slow.
     
  • Realize the value of content – but, again, time is an issue.
     
  • Find value in paying for social media tools.

 

Here's a fun and informative infographic that we created illustrating some of the key data that led to these four conclusions:

 

Want to share this infographic on your own blog or website? Simply copy and paste this embed code:

<img src="http://www.verticalresponse.com/sites/www.verticalresponse.com/files/how_much_do_small_businesses_spend_on_social_media.png" height="3250" width="600"/>

 

Posted by Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @sungmoyle.

3 Ways to Increase Your Pinterest Presence

Mon, 10/29/2012 - 06:00

Just when you thought you’d mastered Facebook for your business, another social media site, Pinterest, comes along vying for your time and attention. You may have been waiting it out, letting others test the waters first,
but now you’ve heard other businesses are gaining traffic from it and realize,“There might be some value in Pinterest after all.”
Ah, and right you are! Pinterest has become one of the fastest growing social networks and the “Pin This” button has even surpassed Facebook’s “Like” button for use on websites.

So you create a Pinterest account, but similarly to Facebook and Twitter, how do you gain followers and exposure? Here are 3 easy ways to establish your Pinterest presence and drive some of the millions of Pinterest users back to your website:

1. Add a “Follow” Button

The Pinterest “Follow” button is similar to the Facebook, Twitter, or other social media icons you may already have on your website. The idea is to grow the size of your network on Pinterest so that followers will visit your site and lead their networks there as well.

Adding/embedding a “Follow” button to your website is easy and you can get one, and the HTML code, directly from Pinterest.

2. Add Photos and “Pin it” Buttons

It may seem obvious, but people need (dynamic) pictures in order to easily share your content on Pinterest. You may have a lot of great photos on your website or in your blog and if so, adding “Pin it” buttons to them won’t take long. But, if your website is less visual, adding more images to your site will make it much more Pin-friendly. Here’s a berry-fresh example:

Driscoll’s is known for their berries. So, to keep things interesting and to add value, they share recipes that use berries (with mouth-watering photos) that can be easily shared on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

From Pinterest, you can go to the “About Us” section under Pin It Button and grab a button.

3. Pin Often

Suggestions #1 and #2 are more passive ways to encourage Pinterest traffic. Now let’s talk about an active one! If you want more traffic from Pinterest, you have to give a little. Share your boards, pictures and interests with the community. The great thing about Pinterest is that people don’t have to be following you to see your pins and boards. They can see them by searching their interests or by what their network has liked or repinned.

Let’s take a look at what Century 21 Northland (a franchise of Century 21) has done on Pinterest, using a distinct personal touch.

There are many Century 21 franchises around the globe, but Century 21 Northland in Traverse City, MI, is one of the most active on Pinterest, with 590 Pins, 20 Boards, 111 followers and 578 likes.

What’s their secret? For starters, their boards include things that aren’t just related to real estate. They pin pictures and content and that appeal to the Pinterest audience – architecture, landscaping, fly fishing, retirement fun, and even wine tasting, to name a few. They share great photos with links to websites on these subjects, as well as repins from the people they follow. (Repinning is great for increasing engagement.)

People buy from those they trust and relate to. In the same way that salespeople connect and gain trust face-to-face, it’s now also happening online. Century 21 Northland is building that trust and community by sharing the things they love on Pinterest.

Find Balance with Your Pins 

There are a few things that could enhance the Century 21 Northland Pinterest page even further, and you can do similar things for your business, too. One would be to add a board about the sales team, to give it a personal touch. I’ve seen other real estate pages do this by posting the agents’ photos linking to their webpages – it’s very eye-catching as people connect with to photos of other people. Another suggestion would be to add expert advice for buying a home or sharing some helpful resources, like school information.

While it’s great to relate to customers on personal levels using Pinterest, striking the right balance between entertainment and promoting your business is important, too. So whatever your core business is, write about it, attach a photo to it, and pin it! If you have white papers, guides, or webinars, this is a great place to share them. That’s how folks on Pinterest learn about what a cool and savvy company you are.

For any small business it can be a challenge to grow your followers and drive traffic to your site. So, when it comes to social media, you get out of it, what you put in, or in this case, what you pin.

The post 3 Ways to Increase Your Pinterest Presence appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Ways to Increase Your Pinterest Presence

Mon, 10/29/2012 - 06:00

Just when you thought you'd mastered Facebook for your business, another social media site, Pinterest, comes along vying for your time and attention. You may have been waiting it out, letting others test the waters first, but now you’ve heard other businesses are gaining traffic from it and realize,“There might be some value in Pinterest after all.” Ah, and right you are! Pinterest has become one of the fastest growing social networks and the "Pin This" button has even surpassed Facebook's "Like" button for use on websites. 

So you create a Pinterest account, but similarly to Facebook and Twitter, how do you gain followers and exposure? Here are 3 easy ways to establish your Pinterest presence and drive some of the millions of Pinterest users back to your website:

1. Add a "Follow" Button

The Pinterest "Follow" button is similar to the Facebook, Twitter, or other social media icons you may already have on your website. The idea is to grow the size of your network on Pinterest so that followers will visit your site and lead their networks there as well.

Adding/embedding a "Follow" button to your website is easy and you can get one, and the HTML code, directly from Pinterest.


2. Add Photos and "Pin it" Buttons

It may seem obvious, but people need (dynamic) pictures in order to easily share your content on Pinterest. You may have a lot of great photos on your website or in your blog and if so, adding "Pin it" buttons to them won't take long. But, if your website is less visual, adding more images to your site will make it much more Pin-friendly. Here's a berry-fresh example:

Driscoll’s is known for their berries. So, to keep things interesting and to add value, they share recipes that use berries (with mouth-watering photos) that can be easily shared on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. 

From Pinterest, you can go to the "About Us" section under Pin It Button and grab a button.

3. Pin Often

Suggestions #1 and #2 are more passive ways to encourage Pinterest traffic. Now let’s talk about an active one! If you want more traffic from Pinterest, you have to give a little. Share your boards, pictures and interests with the community. The great thing about Pinterest is that people don’t have to be following you to see your pins and boards. They can see them by searching their interests or by what their network has liked or repinned.

Let's take a look at what Century 21 Northland (a franchise of Century 21) has done on Pinterest, using a distinct personal touch.

There are many Century 21 franchises around the globe, but Century 21 Northland in Traverse City, MI, is one of the most active on Pinterest, with 590 Pins, 20 Boards, 111 followers and 578 likes.

What’s their secret? For starters, their boards include things that aren't just related to real estate. They pin pictures and content and that appeal to the Pinterest audience – architecture, landscaping, fly fishing, retirement fun, and even wine tasting, to name a few. They share great photos with links to websites on these subjects, as well as repins from the people they follow. (Repinning is great for increasing engagement.)

People buy from those they trust and relate to. In the same way that salespeople connect and gain trust face-to-face, it's now also happening online. Century 21 Northland is building that trust and community by sharing the things they love on Pinterest.

Find Balance with Your Pins 

There are a few things that could enhance the Century 21 Northland Pinterest page even further, and you can do similar things for your business, too. One would be to add a board about the sales team, to give it a personal touch. I've seen other real estate pages do this by posting the agents’ photos linking to their webpages - it's very eye-catching as people connect with to photos of other people. Another suggestion would be to add expert advice for buying a home or sharing some helpful resources, like school information.

While it's great to relate to customers on personal levels using Pinterest, striking the right balance between entertainment and promoting your business is important, too. So whatever your core business is, write about it, attach a photo to it, and pin it! If you have white papers, guides, or webinars, this is a great place to share them. That’s how folks on Pinterest learn about what a cool and savvy company you are.

For any small business it can be a challenge to grow your followers and drive traffic to your site. So, when it comes to social media, you get out of it, what you put in, or in this case, what you pin.

 

Posted by Amanda Day.

Amanda Day is a Marketing Coach at VerticalResponse. 

Blog Wars: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr – Which Platform Rules?

Fri, 10/26/2012 - 06:00

Blogging is an excellent, and may I say, ridiculously awesome way to engage, educate and connect with your customers/readers/fan following. A blog may be your most prized content marketing asset (aside from email marketing, of course), and in some cases, blogs can blow up into businesses of their own accord. According to Wikipedia, “As of February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. On October 13, 2012, there were around 77 million Tumblr and 56.6 million WordPress.com blogs in existence worldwide.” So essentially, everyone’s doing it.

Whether you’re a newbie to the blogosphere or a seasoned pro, determining the best platform for your needs will greatly impact the future of your blog. In a smackdown of sorts, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of 3 major blog contenders: WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. Which one wins the blog war? Let’s battle it out:


WORDPRESS
– established 2003.
WordPress offers two options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is hosted and controlled by WordPress. WordPress.org allows you to use your own hosting system/web server; the interface of both platforms is essentially the same. WordPress has laid out a more in-depth comparison here.

Changing Platforms?
WordPress has an import/export tool that allows you to import content and comments from another blog, or export out of it. The tool is compatible with Blogger, Blogroll, TypePad, Posterous, LiveJournal and more. Word to the wise, your content may not transfer over perfectly. Be prepared to reformat content and/or replace photos.

Pros: 

  • WordPress has a distinguished reputation for advanced technology and top-notch design. Major companies including TechCrunch, CNN, and the National Football League use WordPress. In a nutshell, WordPress has serious street cred.
  • WordPress.org has a plugin architecture system, which allows you to upload a plethora of plugins to enhance the look, feel, and functionality of your blog.
  • WordPress.org is free and gives you unlimited flexibility/customization options by allowing you to host on your own web server. You can upload your own desired themes, edit the HTML/CSS, add as many plugins as your heart desires, etc.
  • There are upgraded “Pro” and VIP programs on WordPress.com, but not without a cost.

Cons:

  • Self-hosting on WordPress.org gives you complete control and flexibility; however, it can also be a lot of work, and may require advanced knowledge in HTML/CSS, etc.

WordPress.com is very basic and can be limited in these aspects:

  • There are hundreds of templates/themes available, but you can’t customize them (without “upgrading” for a cost, and even then, customization is limited). You also can’t tweak the HTML or upload your own custom-made theme.
  • Unlike the .org site, you can’t install plugins, which can enhance the functionality of your blog.
  • The analytics provided are pretty basic.
  • The .com site may include ads on your blog, which you cannot control.
  • WordPress can be slightly confusing, intimidating and/or overwhelming to navigate, especially for beginners.


BLOGGER
– established 1999.
Blogger has been around the block – It was one of the very first blog-publishing tools ever, and according to Wikipedia, it’s also “credited for helping popularize the format.” In 2003, Blogger (owned by Pyra Labs at the time) was acquired by Google, and by 2006, all Blogger accounts were migrated to Google servers.

Changing Platforms?
Blogger has an import/export option, however it doesn’t support importing content from any other platform other than its own.

Pros:

  • Blogger is owned and powered by Google, hence, it’s Google search-friendly, allows you to easily implement Google products and services, and connect to your Google+ account.
  • Blogger is very user-friendly and highly regarded by beginner bloggers. You can do pretty much everything from one dashboard.
  • Blogger’s template design allows you to fully customize your blog theme/template, including the addition or removal of columns. You can change the font, color, and even adjust the width to make your blog mobile-friendly, without having to touch the HTML. Dynamic view allows readers to view your blog in a Pinterest-like manner, which also gives more exposure to older content.
  • Google Analytics! Again, because Blogger is backed by Google, the analytics are much more in-depth and useful than that of WordPress.com.

Cons:

  • You can’t self-host your blog, which is seen as a con for many who want that all-encompassing package of flexibility and ownership.
  • Blogger doesn’t have plugins and the widgets are so-so.
  • You can’t categorize posts, only “tag” them.
  • Blogger, being owned and backed by Google, certainly has advantages, but it’s also a catch-22 in regards to your privacy and content. According to their Terms of Service, Google states that it has the right to remove or refuse to publish content as they see fit. They also state that “when you upload or otherwise submit content, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” So essentially, your blog doesn’t really belong to you.


TUMBLR
– established 2003.
Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform – Think Twitter for blogs. Most posts consist of a single image, video, song, or small amounts of text which people can “love” or “reblog.” Tumblr also implements a Twitter-like newsfeed in which you follow other blogs, and your dashboard consists of a stream of real-time content.

Changing Platforms?
Tough luck. There isn’t any possible way to import content into Tumblr, or export any of your content out of it (unless the blog you’re migrating to has an extract tool).

Pros:

  • Tumblr is popular! It surpassed WordPress last year as the most popular blog hosting service in the world, with 77.6 million blogs under its belt.
  • It’s an extremely simple platform, and so it’s super easy-to-use.
  • There are heaps of nicely designed and free themes. You can also alter the HTML, customizing the theme to your needs.
  • The ability to “love” and “reblog” other peoples’ posts gives your blog a ton of exposure and engagement. This feature is implemented in other platforms, however it’s wildly poplar among Tumblr users. Some people even create Tumblr accounts, not to blog, but to simply follow others. In this regard, Tumblr takes on a Pinterest persona (or did Pinterest take on Tumblr’s persona?), in that users “collect” images and/or posts.

Cons:

  • Tumblr is highly popular among youth, and according to comScore, half of Tumblr’s traffic comes from those under the age of 25 – This isn’t necessarily a con, but depending on your audience, it may not be the community you’re looking to adhere to.
  • There are zero statistics provided about your Tumblr. However, implementing a third party system like Google Analytics is possible since you have the capability to tweak the code. This could be a pro or a con, depending on what you want/need.
  • Readers can’t comment on your posts. Tumblr is more about “reblogging” and “loving” posts rather than allowing comments. There is a workaround, however. Again, implementing a third-party tool such as Disqus, will fix this.
  • Tumblr isn’t for hefty, meaty blog posts. If you want to hone your creative writing skills, or give your readers in-depth information, Tumblr may not be your best option.

So who won the blog war? Drum roll please…That depends. In a nutshell, WordPress(.org) is great if you’re looking for complete control and customization, Blogger is an excellent platform for beginners, and Tumblr is stellar for quick bits of information, engagement and a youthful community.

What platform do you use, and why?

  • Also, if you’re a beginner and looking for more info on getting started, watch our recorded webinar: Blogging for Beginners.

The post Blog Wars: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr – Which Platform Rules? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Blog Wars: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr – Which Platform Rules?

Fri, 10/26/2012 - 06:00

Blogging is an excellent, and may I say, ridiculously awesome way to engage, educate and connect with your customers/readers/fan following. A blog may be your most prized content marketing asset (aside from email marketing, of course), and in some cases, blogs can blow up into businesses of their own accord. According to Wikipedia, “As of February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. On October 13, 2012, there were around 77 million Tumblr and 56.6 million WordPress.com blogs in existence worldwide.” So essentially, everyone's doing it.

Whether you’re a newbie to the blogosphere or a seasoned pro, determining the best platform for your needs will greatly impact the future of your blog. In a smackdown of sorts, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of 3 major blog contenders: WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. Which one wins the blog war? Let's battle it out:

WORDPRESS – established 2003.
WordPress offers two options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is hosted and controlled by WordPress. WordPress.org allows you to use your own hosting system/web server; the interface of both platforms is essentially the same. WordPress has laid out a more in-depth comparison here.

Changing Platforms?
WordPress has an import/export tool that allows you to import content and comments from another blog, or export out of it. The tool is compatible with Blogger, Blogroll, TypePad, Posterous, LiveJournal and more. Word to the wise, your content may not transfer over perfectly. Be prepared to reformat content and/or replace photos.

Pros: 

  • WordPress has a distinguished reputation for advanced technology and top-notch design. Major companies including TechCrunch, CNN, and the National Football League use WordPress. In a nutshell, WordPress has serious street cred.
  • WordPress.org has a plugin architecture system, which allows you to upload a plethora of plugins to enhance the look, feel, and functionality of your blog.
  • WordPress.org is free and gives you unlimited flexibility/customization options by allowing you to host on your own web server. You can upload your own desired themes, edit the HTML/CSS, add as many plugins as your heart desires, etc.
  • There are upgraded “Pro” and VIP programs on WordPress.com, but not without a cost.

Cons:

  • Self-hosting on WordPress.org gives you complete control and flexibility; however, it can also be a lot of work, and may require advanced knowledge in HTML/CSS, etc. 
WordPress.com is very basic and can be limited in these aspects:
  • There are hundreds of templates/themes available, but you can’t customize them (without “upgrading” for a cost, and even then, customization is limited). You also can’t tweak the HTML or upload your own custom-made theme.
  • Unlike the .org site, you can’t install plugins, which can enhance the functionality of your blog.
  • The analytics provided are pretty basic.
  • The .com site may include ads on your blog, which you cannot control.
  • WordPress can be slightly confusing, intimidating and/or overwhelming to navigate, especially for beginners.


BLOGGER – established 1999.
Blogger has been around the block - It was one of the very first blog-publishing tools ever, and according to Wikipedia, it’s also “credited for helping popularize the format.” In 2003, Blogger (owned by Pyra Labs at the time) was acquired by Google, and by 2006, all Blogger accounts were migrated to Google servers.

Changing Platforms?
Blogger has an import/export option, however it doesn’t support importing content from any other platform other than its own.

Pros:

  • Blogger is owned and powered by Google, hence, it’s Google search-friendly, allows you to easily implement Google products and services, and connect to your Google+ account.
  • Blogger is very user-friendly and highly regarded by beginner bloggers. You can do pretty much everything from one dashboard.
  • Blogger's template design allows you to fully customize your blog theme/template, including the addition or removal of columns. You can change the font, color, and even adjust the width to make your blog mobile-friendly, without having to touch the HTML. Dynamic view allows readers to view your blog in a Pinterest-like manner, which also gives more exposure to older content.
  • Google Analytics! Again, because Blogger is backed by Google, the analytics are much more in-depth and useful than that of WordPress.com.

Cons:

  • You can’t self-host your blog, which is seen as a con for many who want that all-encompassing package of flexibility and ownership.
  • Blogger doesn’t have plugins and the widgets are so-so.
  • You can’t categorize posts, only “tag” them.
  • Blogger, being owned and backed by Google, certainly has advantages, but it’s also a catch-22 in regards to your privacy and content. According to their Terms of Service, Google states that it has the right to remove or refuse to publish content as they see fit. They also state that “when you upload or otherwise submit content, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” So essentially, your blog doesn’t really belong to you.


TUMBLR – established 2003.
Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform – Think Twitter for blogs. Most posts consist of a single image, video, song, or small amounts of text which people can "love" or "reblog." Tumblr also implements a Twitter-like newsfeed in which you follow other blogs, and your dashboard consists of a stream of real-time content.

Changing Platforms?
Tough luck. There isn’t any possible way to import content into Tumblr, or export any of your content out of it (unless the blog you’re migrating to has an extract tool).

Pros:

  • Tumblr is popular! It surpassed WordPress last year as the most popular blog hosting service in the world, with 77.6 million blogs under its belt.
  • It’s an extremely simple platform, and so it's super easy-to-use.
  • There are heaps of nicely designed and free themes. You can also alter the HTML, customizing the theme to your needs.
  • The ability to “love” and “reblog” other peoples’ posts gives your blog a ton of exposure and engagement. This feature is implemented in other platforms, however it’s wildly poplar among Tumblr users. Some people even create Tumblr accounts, not to blog, but to simply follow others. In this regard, Tumblr takes on a Pinterest persona (or did Pinterest take on Tumblr’s persona?), in that users “collect” images and/or posts.

Cons:

  • Tumblr is highly popular among youth, and according to comScore, half of Tumblr’s traffic comes from those under the age of 25 – This isn’t necessarily a con, but depending on your audience, it may not be the community you’re looking to adhere to.
  • There are zero statistics provided about your Tumblr. However, implementing a third party system like Google Analytics is possible since you have the capability to tweak the code. This could be a pro or a con, depending on what you want/need.
  • Readers can’t comment on your posts. Tumblr is more about “reblogging” and “loving” posts rather than allowing comments. There is a workaround, however. Again, implementing a third-party tool such as Disqus, will fix this.
  • Tumblr isn’t for hefty, meaty blog posts. If you want to hone your creative writing skills, or give your readers in-depth information, Tumblr may not be your best option.


So who won the blog war? Drum roll please…That depends. In a nutshell, WordPress(.org) is great if you’re looking for complete control and customization, Blogger is an excellent platform for beginners, and Tumblr is stellar for quick bits of information, engagement and a youthful community.

What platform do you use, and why?

  • Also, if you're a beginner and looking for more info on getting started, watch our recorded webinar: Blogging for Beginners.

 

Posted by Colleen Corkery

Colleen Corkery is a Marketing Associate at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @youcollme.

Nailed Your Copy? Think Again.

Wed, 10/24/2012 - 13:52

My team and I produce a lot of content for VerticalResponse. In doing so, I also edit a ton of copy. Sometimes after reading the same content for what seems like the millionth time, I have a “Eureka!” moment. In these moments, copy that I have read and re-read, or wrote and rewrote, takes on a new perspective, or I see it though a different filter and everything changes (much to the chagrin of my team). You may have encountered this yourself when you had copy that you’d been using fairly successfully and felt pretty good about. Then one day, someone comes along and reads it, asks you a question, or points something out that you never thought of and, “Eureka!”

So if you’re fairly happy with your copy, and the results you’re getting from said copy, then good for you. But, if you want to get even better results, then maybe it’s time to take your copy, turn it on its head, and have your own “Eureka!” moment.

Most recently, I was re-editing some emails we send to folks who’re participating in one of our free VR Social trials (you can get one of your own here). Some of the messages were time-based and referenced the fact that the trial would expire in “X” number of days. I focused specifically on the subject lines of these messages, which included a “countdown” until the trial ended. While this was great for driving a sense of urgency and giving the user a reason to take action, it became clear the messages sounded threatening and off-putting, considering we were “giving” a free trial.

Previously, we were reinforcing: “Your free trial is ending in 60 days,” “Your free trial is ending in 30 days,” “Your free trial is almost over.” The messages continued with these “threats” and I felt like I’d been hit over the head with a bat. What were we trying to do? Bully our users? Of course not. So I took the copy and turned it on its head. I made a few simple changes and completely changed the tone going from the negative to a more positive, action-oriented subject line.

Here are the BEFORE subject lines:

 

 

 

Here are the AFTER subject lines:

 

 

 

 

These email subject lines are still being tested, but what’s your marketing hunch? Will they beat the original versions?

What other copy flips can you perform? Consider the following:

  • Short copy vs. Long copy
  • Benefit copy vs. feature copy
  • Email solo vs. a series of emails
  • Single idea subject lines vs. multi-topic subject lines
  • Conversational tone vs. business tone

Ultimately, you need to match your copy and tone to what is appropriate for your business and industry, but sometimes it’s also nice to do something a bit unexpected to see what happens. We recently created an ‘out of the ordinary’ series of promotional emails and used food as the inspiration. We had fun creating catchy subject lines that would really pop in the inbox. For example, the first email put combined email marketing and cupcakes…(really).

Here’s a glimpse:

In the subject line (circled in red) we pushed the limit with our quirky, “Hey Cupcake” greeting. Turned out that we got some great replies including, “That’s Mr. Cucpake to you!” So in this case, our customers responded to the playful tone and also responded to the offer with hundreds of purchases made. Talk about the icing on the cake!

How can you see your copy through a new filter? What changes can you make? I’d love to hear in the comments!

The post Nailed Your Copy? Think Again. appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Nailed Your Copy? Think Again.

Wed, 10/24/2012 - 13:52

My team and I produce a lot of content for VerticalResponse. In doing so, I also edit a ton of copy. Sometimes after reading the same content for what seems like the millionth time, I have a "Eureka!" moment. In these moments, copy that I have read and re-read, or wrote and rewrote, takes on a new perspective, or I see it though a different filter and everything changes (much to the chagrin of my team). You may have encountered this yourself when you had copy that you'd been using fairly successfully and felt pretty good about. Then one day, someone comes along and reads it, asks you a question, or points something out that you never thought of and, "Eureka!"

So if you're fairly happy with your copy, and the results you're getting from said copy, then good for you. But, if you want to get even better results, then maybe it's time to take your copy, turn it on its head, and have your own "Eureka!" moment.

Most recently, I was re-editing some emails we send to folks who're participating in one of our free VR Social trials (you can get one of your own here). Some of the messages were time-based and referenced the fact that the trial would expire in "X" number of days. I focused specifically on the subject lines of these messages, which included a "countdown" until the trial ended. While this was great for driving a sense of urgency and giving the user a reason to take action, it became clear the messages sounded threatening and off-putting, considering we were "giving" a free trial.

Previously, we were reinforcing: "Your free trial is ending in 60 days," "Your free trial is ending in 30 days," "Your free trial is almost over." The messages continued with these "threats" and I felt like I'd been hit over the head with a bat. What were we trying to do? Bully our users? Of course not. So I took the copy and turned it on its head. I made a few simple changes and completely changed the tone going from the negative to a more positive, action-oriented subject line.

Here are the BEFORE subject lines:



Here are the AFTER subject lines:


These email subject lines are still being tested, but what's your marketing hunch? Will they beat the original versions?

What other copy flips can you perform? Consider the following:

  • Short copy vs. Long copy
  • Benefit copy vs. feature copy
  • Email solo vs. a series of emails
  • Single idea subject lines vs. multi-topic subject lines
  • Conversational tone vs. business tone

Ultimately, you need to match your copy and tone to what is appropriate for your business and industry, but sometimes it's also nice to do something a bit unexpected to see what happens. We recently created an 'out of the ordinary' series of promotional emails and used food as the inspiration. We had fun creating catchy subject lines that would really pop in the inbox. For example, the first email put combined email marketing and cupcakes...(really).

Here's a glimpse:



In the subject line (circled in red) we pushed the limit with our quirky, "Hey Cupcake" greeting. Turned out that we got some great replies including, "That's Mr. Cucpake to you!" So in this case, our customers responded to the playful tone and also responded to the offer with hundreds of purchases made. Talk about the icing on the cake!


How can you see your copy through a new filter? What changes can you make? I'd love to hear in the comments!

 

Posted by Kim Stiglitz.

Kim Stiglitz is the Director of Lifecycle Marketing at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @Stiggy1.

4 Simple Ways to Monitor Your Competitors' Marketing Strategies

Tue, 10/23/2012 - 06:00

Competitive analysis is just a fancy way to describe the process of checking out what your competitors are doing, or not doing, and using that information to your advantage. Observing your competitors' marketing strategies is a great way to measure their strengths and weaknesses and gain insight into your own. The first step into developing a solid competitive analysis strategy is determining who your main competitors are. After you’ve established who they are, you can begin to monitor and analyze. Below are four simple ways:

1. Sign up to receive their email or newsletter - Many companies make it easy for just about anyone to sign up and receive email newsletters. Most link to a signup form on either their website or Facebook page. A good way to receive a competitor's non-newsletter emails (such as their signup or purchase confirmations, lifecycle series or other transactional emails) is to sign up for a free trial, or make a small purchase in order to be classified as a new customer. Be aware, though, some savvy companies will "blacklist" competitor work email addresses.

Receiving emails from your competitors can help you see things from the perspective of a customer within your industry. You can get a good idea as to the tone of voice, creative style and offer you want to include in your email, and which ones you would like to steer clear of. It's always interesting to consider a point of view or positioning that may be different or even similar to your own.

2. Explore their website - Visit competitors' websites to see what they’re doing right and what they may be doing wrong. For example, if you're unable to find certain vital pieces of information such as contact info, a simple way to sign up or make a purchase, it may give you some insight into what you can capitalize on for your own website.

Viewing a competitor’s website is also a great method to get information on new products they've released, positioning, special promotions and discounts or other strategies you may not have been aware of.

Also, take a look at their “careers” or “jobs” sections as well. You can learn valuable information about a company and their areas of growth based on the positions they're looking to fill.

3. Like and follow on social networks – 'Like' your competitors on Facebook, connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Many companies release special promotions on their social networks, so if you don’t see their pages or profiles, you won’t be aware of their social media strategies. You can also check out competitors’ social media networks to see how they position themselves, and how individuals interact with their brand. Again, this gives you insight into what strategies and ideas are effective and which to avoid.

4. Give them a call – This strategy can give you insight into the way your competitors do business, especially if you and your competitors sell over the phone. You can find out how firm their pricing structure is and whether or not they throw in incentives in order to close a sale. The best part of this competitive analysis strategy is that you can basically ask them anything you’d like to know while you're on the phone with them.

Competitive analysis is an important part of your overall marketing strategy. And, there is much more information on this topic out there. If you'd like further details on competitive analysis and the tools used to measure and rate competitors, Wikipedia provides a nice overview.

Do you have any other suggestions on strategies you've used for competitive analysis? We'd love to hear about them in the comments!

 

Posted by Savannah Stewart

Savannah Stewart is a Lifecycle Marketing Coordinator at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @savannahstewart.

How to Create a Winning Email Marketing Campaign [Infographic]

Mon, 10/22/2012 - 06:00

Whether you're voting for a presidential candidate, cheering for a coveted baseball team, or aiming for higher click-through rates, we're all in it to win it. And while we're neck-deep in debates, there's no better time to discuss the (inarguable) aspects that make up a winning email marketing campaign. At VerticalResponse, we've put together a timely and informative infographic depicting 5 steps that will undoubtedly get votes for your email marketing efforts and brand:


Want to share this infographic on your own blog or website? Simply copy and paste this embed code:

<img style="width: 604px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Email Marketing Infographic" src="http://blog.verticalresponse.com/.a/6a00d83451b09469e2017ee4440640970d-640wi" alt="Email Marketing Infographic" />

Small Business Innovators - Back to the Roots

Fri, 10/19/2012 - 06:00

Editor's Note: We're constantly amazed at the innovations we see happening in small businesses every day. As part of a periodic series, we'll highlight some of the companies we think are turning traditional business models on their ear, starting today with Back to the Roots, who have built a business that is environmentally sustainable while also being profitable.

Alejandro Valez and Nikhil Valora sat staring at the bucket of used coffee grounds, now filled with gorgeous, plump pearl oyster mushrooms that had grown over the course of just a few days in the kitchen of Alejandro's fraternity house. Of the ten buckets they had filled with spent grounds and inoculated with mushroom spores, this appeared to be the only success - the other nine were totally contaminated with mold.

Neither Alejandro nor Nikhil had any experience in the food industry. The two had met just weeks before in their ethics class at UC Berkeley's Haas Business School, Alejandro anticipating a career as an investment banker and Nikhil considering business consulting. After a lecture in which the professor offhandedly mentioned reading somewhere about growing mushrooms in spent coffee grounds, Nikhil approached him to find out more. The professor told him that another student, Alejandro, had asked the same questions, so he connected them.

Now, they sat pondering their one successful batch out of ten. "There's no way I'm trying these," Alejandro said.

So they took the bucket to a nearby expert in locally produced food - Alice Waters, founder of celebrated restaurant, Chez Panisse. Recognizing the mushrooms as safe, she grabbed her head chef, who quickly took a cluster of the mushrooms and sautéed them in butter. They were delicious.

Three years later, Nikhil, Alejandro and a team of 31 employees in Oakland produce and sell about 2,000 grow-at-home mushroom kits a week online, at Whole Foods stores, Home Depot and through direct sales at a variety of events. During the 4th quarter rush, they expect to produce and sell as many as 15,000 units a week and are currently hustling to get their products into Nordstrom and Bed Bath & Beyond.

"The most fulfilling thing," Nikhil says, "is no one even knew what a mushroom kit was. Now people have seen them around. It's cool to build something that people recognize."

Both Nikhil and Alejandro see the mushroom kits as more than a cool science experiment or a way to save money on produce. Their ultimate goal with Back to the Roots is to build a sustainable business that is profitable, while helping both the environment and their community. This year, the company is on track to divert 3.6 million pounds of spent coffee grounds taken from Peet's Coffee & Tea from going straight to the landfill. Every time a customer posts a picture of themselves with a completed kit on Facebook, Back to the Roots donates a kit to the school of that customer's choice. "We've now donated to more than 400 schools nationwide," Nikhil says. "It's been an incredible program." And, for every kit sold at a Whole Foods store, one dollar is donated to the Whole Kids Foundation to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle amongst kids.

Whole Foods Market stores have been one of their biggest boosters since the beginning. Shortly after tasting their success at Chez Panisse, Alejandro and Nikhil brought their bucket to the produce manager at the Whole Foods in Berkeley. The store's team passed the bucket around the store and were so impressed that they called in the regional coordinator, who shared their enthusiasm. "This is the coolest thing I've seen in produce," he told them. "If you do this, we'll blow it up in Whole Foods."

Nikhil and Alejandro started out by selling their mushrooms straight to Whole Foods and farmers' markets as produce. Soon, everyone began asking how they could grow the mushrooms themselves, so the pair began making and selling the kits. The first kits were little more than bulky plastic bags filled with inoculated coffee grounds. "They looked disgusting," Nikhil said.

Nikhil and Alejandro soon switched to putting the bags of grounds in recyclable boxes. As they demoed and sold the kits, they listened to customer feedback and improved the presentation. They also discovered that their original marketing strategy was too narrow. "When we launched, we didn't know who the buyer was," Nikhil said, explaining that they thought their biggest market would be in the natural food space. "Since then, we've learned we're getting the best response on these things from families and kids."

Kids love the kits because they get rapid gratification. It takes just 10 days to produce a batch of mushrooms with the kits. "Kids wait 90 days for tomatoes," Nikhil says. "For kids, that's a lifetime."

The Back to the Roots team is taking the lead from their customers and working to improve the kits. Right now, they're working on a box that comes embedded with vegetable seeds. When the mushroom kit has exhausted its harvest, customers will be able to plant the box, use the spent grounds and spores as compost and grow vegetables in a container or right in their garden. And it's not just about the kits; they're currently exploring ways to bring aquaponics - raising fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship that also provides fresh food - to the consumer market to further make growing food at home fun and easy.

"Our whole vision," Nikhil says, "is to create experiences that make food personal again and to educate and inspire."  

 

As a special offer for VerticalResponse customers, Back to the Roots will take 10% off your online order when you enter "verticalresponse" as the coupon code at checkout. To take advantage of this special offer, simply visit Back to the Roots online at http://www.bttrventures.com/.


Posted by Rob Zazueta.

Rob is the Evangelist at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter @rzazueta.

Don't Let Meetings Suck Your Time

Wed, 10/17/2012 - 14:40

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

I was recently out to lunch with a few colleagues who work at a very cool company. The CEO of their company had left, and the second in command had taken over. They like her, but they said the number of meetings they're required to go to now has doubled.

They were describing my hell.

Now, I don't think that meetings are completely useless. But I do think that most companies have useless meetings, including my own. And the people at VerticalResponse will tell you that they know how I feel.

Why do I hate meetings? Let me count the ways:

1. Meetings allow people to delay decisions.

In a meeting, Jonathan says to the sales guy, "Jason, let's take that offline and have a meeting about it next Tuesday, cool?" What he really meant to say was, "Jason, let's take that offline and have a meeting about it next Tuesday, because it's too much for me to think about it now and make a decision. I'm a wussy, cool?" Jason just lost a full week of revenue.

2. Most people who are in meetings don't need to be there.

You can tell, because these people jump on their computers during the meeting not to take notes, but to instant message or catch up on email. Let me tell you how much time is wasted by these very people saying, "Can you repeat that?"

3. People call meetings because they're afraid to make a decision.

They get their boss and their boss's boss into the meeting so that they can bring up an issue only to be told what to do because they're scared to have a brain. Hey, people, news flash: You've probably been hired to walk into your boss's office and make recommendations on what YOU think the business should do, so do that and stop wasting everyone's time.

4. Many people who call a meeting don't have a clear agenda or objective.

Here's an idea: At the start of the meeting, say, "Here's what we're going to get out of this meeting," or, "By the end of this meeting, we'll dole out responsibilities so you know what you need to do."

5. People call 30-minute meetings for things that can be decided in five minutes.

Three people can probably come together and give the go-ahead in seconds rather than book a room, meet, probably come up with a PowerPoint presentation (more time wasted) and come to a decision that someone else needs to decide. BOO. My motto? DO SOMETHING! Even if it's wrong, you went for it, and with any luck, you either hit a home run or learned what not to do in the future.

6. Most meetings cost too much.

Two cool apps: Meeting Ticker and Effective Meetings. 'Nuff said.

Do I think there is a place for meetings? Absolutely! But the result of any meeting has to be to make your business better. Are your meetings doing that?

 

Posted by Janine Popick

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick, and check out more of her Inc.com columns.

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