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Reach Your Customers with Email and Social Media Marketing
Updated: 3 hours 21 min ago

What’s New Weekly – Nest Protect + Hiking App EveryTrail [VIDEO]

Sat, 10/12/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we share a high-tech smoke detector called Nest Protect and a handy hiking app for iOS and Android called EveryTrail. Watch now:


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Facebook Friday: iOS Mobile App Update + Amazing Marketing Stats [VIDEO]

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 06:10

In this episode of Facebook Friday, we highlight a rumored update to the iOS Facebook Mobile App, as well as some incredible Facebook marketing statistics that were shared by Business Insider.


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Social Media Invite Emails That Are a Marketing “Do”

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 06:00

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, the list of social media networking sites continues to grow. And, once you’ve created your account on the latest social network, or even if you have an established account, how do you get people to find it? Email marketing, of course! Sending an email invitation asking readers to follow your business on a social network may not seem intuitive, but it can be an effective and easy way to grow your following. Your email list is full of people interested in your biz, and getting them to interact with you on social media can help build your relationship with them and keep your business top of mind.

Before we jump into some excellent social media email invite examples, here are a few tips for creating an effective invite. Now it may seem obvious, but always make sure (in any email you send) to include a link and/or a call-to-action button that entices readers to follow you. Also, make sure the email is:

  • Informative – Let your readers know what they’re going to get or find if they do start following your business on social.
  • Easy to read – Remember to include all the social sites you’re on and link to each one – Some people prefer different social sites.
  • Short – Just like any invitation, give important info, make the copy fun and personable and that’s it. Keep readers focused.

Now that we’ve discussed some tips, let’s take a look at a few “do” examples:

The Container Store - The Container Store’s social invite email focuses purely on their social networks, so it’s easy for readers to know what to do. It’s short, fun and shares the different things one can expect to find at each social site (i.e., time-saving tips). Plus, they include calls-to-action in the form of a “Go” button!


Zulily – Zulily created a charming graphic for their social invite email email which calls out each of their social networks. They also have a catchy headline: “Calling all social butterflies.” Plus, they provide a compelling reason to follow them on each social site (i.e., get inspired, share & shop).

CETFA – This non-profit included a single, funny and attention-grabbing image in their social invite email. They share their new social sites, plus the ones they’re established on and they give reasons why to follow them on each one.


The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a social media invite is to answer the following questions: “How can I provide value to my readers and followers?” and “What’s in it for them?” Then, keep followers coming back for more with engaging posts and conversations.

Looking for a little more on this subject? Jay Baer, the social media guru and author of the best-selling book Youtility, has a popular keynote entitled Why Email is Madonna and Facebook is Lady Gaga. Baer talks about how email and Facebook marketing are really very similar. Check it out for more inspiration.

Have you used email invitations to grow your following on social media? Share your experiences or invites in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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5 Apps to Run Your Small Business from Anywhere

Thu, 10/10/2013 - 06:00

When the world is your office, on-the-go productivity is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity! Streamline your small business’s operations no matter where you are with our top five must-have small business apps.


Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service that comes in handy whether you’re doing business in or out of the office. When you receive a receipt from a vendor, simply snap a picture of it using the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker (free for iOS and Android). All of the information from the receipt – including date, vendor, total amount paid, payment type and category – is stored in the app and in your secure online account. Avoid tracking paper clutter back into the office while you keep your income and expenses up-to-date in real time.


The FreshBooks cloud accounting app lets you create, edit, send and receive invoices from absolutely anywhere. You can also track expenses, manage client profiles, and view payment activity right from the palm of your hand.

This app is especially suited to freelancers because it allows you to track your time no matter where you’re working. Project managers can feel free to allow their designers and copywriters to work from home, the coffee shop, or the park bench of their choice; with the FreshBooks app, all billable hours can be easily tracked, putting the “free” back in freelance.


It’s not easy to join conference calls and webinars when you’re traveling or working from the road. Speek is an app that lets you skip the pain of logging in and dealing with annoying pin numbers and passwords.

When you use Speek, you’ll be sent a unique URL that can be shared with anyone attending your virtual meeting or call. Simply share the link and users will be able to join the call with a single click – no log in, no hassle. Oh, and Speek is accessible via smartphone, tablet, or just about any device you’ve got!


You no longer have to be in your store or location to take payments. Simply sign up for Square and start swiping credit cards right from your smartphone! When you begin your service, Square will send you (for free) a small scanning device that attaches to your smartphone or tablet. From there, just download the Square app and start accepting credit card payments! You’ll pay a percentage of every purchase made or a flat monthly rate of $275.


Asana is a digital office organizer and project management app that lets up to 15 team members collaborate on daily tasks and long-term goals. It doesn’t matter if your web designer is in Switzerland and your marketing director is in New York – with Asana, everyone will (literally) be on the same page throughout the course of your project.

What’s an app that you can’t live without, especially when you’re working remotely?

This post contributed by Emily Farrar. Farrar is the Director of Community at Shoeboxed, the fastest way to turn a pile of paper receipts into digital data for effortless expense reporting and bookkeeping.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How to Write a Winning Pay Per Click Ad

Wed, 10/09/2013 - 06:00

In paid search, no matter how well an account is structured or how aggressively you bid on keywords, it still may not be enough to get that click if you aren’t writing engaging and relevant ad copy. In this post we highlight essentials for writing a winning pay per click (PPC) ad.

Every pay per click ad has certain elements that make it meaningful and relevant to your target audience in order to get that click. In general, your ad should address the needs of your target audience, focusing on their pain points.

Differentiate from Competitors

According to David Jaeger in the Search Engine Watch article, “How to Write the Best PPC Ad Copy…” Jaeger suggests that researching and noting what your competitors are doing is a great place to start when writing pay per click ads. Generally, the top spot signifies an ad that is performing well. By identifying what points are being stressed, as well as, what’s being offered, you’ll be able to figure out what makes you different and/or better than your competition. Once you do that, you can incorporate your advantages into your ads making you stand out among the crowd. It’s also a good idea to use Auction Insights Report within the Google Adwords interface, as well as the Ad Preview Tool to see who your competitors are, as well as the different ad copy they’re running for each of your targeted keywords.

Qualify Customers

What do we mean when we say qualify your customers? As Sam Mazaheri states in his article “5 Tips for Creating Effective PPC Ads,” “It’s not hard to get a lot of clicks, but it is hard to get a lot of clicks from qualified people that are willing and able to become your customers.” You don’t want to waste money on clicks from people that won’t ultimately convert. For example, if you offer a product that only serves a niche group, it’s good to include that info within your ad. Perhaps your customers are price sensitive. Mazaheri suggests including prices in your ads. If a visitor clicks on your ad with the price as advertised, they should be much more qualified. “It may limit your traffic, but the clicks you do get will be from customers that are willing to pay that price,” says Mazaheri.  As a general rule, be clear about what you’re offering so that people aren’t surprised when they get to your site.

Reflect the Keyword

Research has shown that adding the keyword into the headline and copy of your ad will increase the likelihood of it getting clicked. If the searcher’s query matches your targeted keyword, the keyword will actually show up bold, as Bryan Watson stated in his article, “PPC Ad Copy Writing for Beginners,” within the ad copy making it stand out even more. For more advanced users of Google Adwords, Dynamic Keyword Insertion is a great tactic to help ensure the user’s query always shows up in the ad headline. By adding Dynamic Keyword Insertion into your ad headline, Google will dynamically insert the users query to fit into the ad headline therefore increasing the relevancy to that user, hopefully resulting in a click.

Have a Call-to-Action

The call-to-action is an important aspect, if not the most important aspect of your pay per click ad. It’s particularly important because you want people to complete a desired action and know exactly what to expect to see on the landing page. Whether you want them to make a purchase or start a free trial, you should include it in your ad. Adding call-to-action phrases like “Sign up Now,” or “Buy Now,” is not only inviting people to complete your desired action, but qualifying them at the same time.

Create Relevant and Consistent Landing Pages

Just because a user has clicked on one of your ads doesn’t mean that a sale is guaranteed. It’s important to take customers to an appropriate and relevant landing page that directly relates to your keyword and ad copy. By staying consistent in your messaging as well as providing meaningful content, you have a higher chance of closing that deal. It’s also a good idea to group your keywords into closely related themes so that your ad copy and landing pages remain highly relevant.

Test Your Ads

Remember not to underestimate how important it is to test your pay per click ad. It can be hard to get your ad copy right the first time, and even if you’re lucky enough to nail a great ad on your first round, things can always be improved. By testing different messaging and calls-to-action, you can determine what resonates with your potential customers, as well as the perfect combination of pain points and CTAs.

These six tips should give you a head start on creating a winning pay per click ad. Remember to keep in mind secondary factors such as perceived value, credibility, and risk reduction, such as a free trial, when writing your ads. And use Google ad extensions in order to take up as much real estate on the results page as possible.

Have any tips to add to our list for writing winning pay per click ads? Share them in the comments!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Keys to Creating Memorable Social Media Promotions

Tue, 10/08/2013 - 06:00

What do you get when you combine a credit union with a zombie apocalypse? Give up? How about a crazy successful social media promotion. Ok, let’s back up a bit.

The digital advertising agency James and Matthew and Company was hired by E&A Credit Union to create a digital promotion to increase home loans. James Pond and his business partner used their self-defined zany approach to advertising to come up with this Facebook promotion:

“We all know that the Zombie Apocalypse is coming soon. What you need is a 1.99% APR home equity line of credit to upgrade your defenses.”

The quirky two-sentence promotion was accompanied by a picture of a zombie-proof home. It got 460+ likes and was shared 150+ times. That same month, the credit union had a record number of mortgage inquires.

Everyday, more business owners are turning to Facebook to boost their bottom line and every one of them wants to know one thing: What’s the secret to a successful social media promotion? James Pond, the man behind the zombie promotion, offered these tips to small businesses:

Think of your audience, not yourself

When creating a social media promotion, you can’t act like TV pitchman Billy Mays, touting your product like crazy. If you have a boring product you’ve got to find a way to jazz it up a bit. “Ask yourself, ‘Why should anyone care?’ and create a promotion around that answer,” Pond says. “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”

Be funny, make it engaging

Humor wins every time, Pond says. “Laughter is contagious. Make one person laugh and they’ll want to pass it on.” It’s the best way to get shares.

People also love to give their opinion, Pond says. “Ask a question on Facebook, sit back and let the interaction begin,” he says. Or you can run an interactive contest, like Maybelline Switzerland recently did. The company asked people to take a picture of their lipstick-clad lips and post it on their page for a chance to be the product’s model on Facebook.

Try an educational approach

If you can make someone tilt their head and say, ‘I didn’t know that,’ you’ll have them hooked, Pond says. Kellogg’s, the cereal maker, used this approach to teach kids nutritional tips on its Facebook page.

Make it shareable

You want someone to love your promotion so much they share it with others. “People who share your promotion are spreading the word about your product,” Pond says. “The most shareable posts have both good content and a stellar picture.”

Be available to your customers

Once you’ve launched your promotion, be available 24/7, or close to it. “Consumers on Facebook expect immediate response, so make sure you or an employee is watching the promotion at all times,” Pond says. He suggests installing the Facebook app on your phone so you can respond at will.

Start small with advertising

Pond suggests buying some ad space on Facebook to boost your promotion’s reach. While other social media sites have similar options, Pond says Facebook has most of the kinks worked out. He advises small business owners to set a modest budget out of the gate.

“You’ve gotta pay to play,” Pond notes. “For a campaign to be really successful, you need to have a Facebook budget.” Start small though, set a geographical area of five miles around your location and go from there. Once you have a few promotions under your belt, Pond says it’s okay to expand.

Pond encourages businesses to experiment with several promotional ideas to see which ones fit. Whether or not you’re an analytics nut, you’ll know if the promotion is working by the level of engagement. Whatever promotion you decide on, Pond’s takeaway message is: creativity equates to success.

Has your business done any interesting social media promotions? Share in the comments!

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Facebook Promoted Posts – What the Numbers are Telling You [Video]

Mon, 10/07/2013 - 06:00

Earlier this year, Facebook introduced Promoted Posts. We’ve all seen them in our feed and maybe you’ve even taken them for a spin. But do you really understand what your Facebook Insights are telling you about posts you promote? And how do promoted posts stack up against un-promoted posts?

In this short video we share a behind-the-scenes look into our own Facebook Promoted Post experience to shed some light on whether Promoted Posts should be part of your social mix.


Grab our free Guide to Facebook Insights to learn more.

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Instagram Will Be “Ad Free” No More!

Sat, 10/05/2013 - 20:12

In a move that many anticipated when they were purchased by Facebook back on April 9, 2012, Instagram is crossing over into the world of advertising. In an announcement that came from Instagram directly via a blog post, the popular photo sharing company announced that it will start rolling out ads on the platform in the “next couple months.”

Initially focusing on brands that are already “great members” of the Instagram community, the company will deliver high-quality photos and videos from accounts you may or may not follow. As stated in the post, “seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow.”

The advertising will be integrated into the main structure of the Instagram platform in a non-intrusive way. “Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands.”

The Instagram advertising program will allow brands and companies to pay for their photos and videos to appear in a user’s feed. Taking a page out of Facebook’s advertising options, users will be able to hide an ad they don’t like or they feel isn’t relevant to them.

What are your thoughts on this new advertising option from Instagram? We’d love to hear in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly: Awesome New Video Chat App, Spin [Video]

Sat, 10/05/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we share an awesome new app called Spin that takes video chat to the next level. Brought to you by the good folks at Net Power & Light, the new Spin app allows you to video chat like Skype or Apple’s FaceTime but brings in elements including Facebook photos and video, Flickr and paper airplanes that provide a more robust video experience. Follow Spin on Twitter at @TogetherSpin.


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Women Entrepreneurs: 3 Secrets to Success

Fri, 10/04/2013 - 06:00

I’ve been running VerticalResponse, for more than 12 years. That’s a really long time, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of lots of women-oriented business organizations, and to dole out advice about entrepreneurship and the challenges (and successes) that women come across when building their own companies. I’ve gotten to know some pretty amazing and super smart women along the way, too.

I met Geri Stengel, the founder of Ventureneer, about a year ago at a conference in New York. She consults for small businesses and non-profits, among many other things. We instantly clicked, and recently she agreed to do a webinar for our Pro Webinar Series.

Geri’s topic was on how women entrepreneurs can break the glass ceiling, a topic near and dear. She had three great secrets that I’ll share here.

Build out Your Networks

According to Geri, women tend to build deep but not broad networks, while men tend to build wide and shallow. To succeed in business, you need to do both. After all, it’s your networks that will take you to the next level, whether it’s introducing you to someone new, or providing capital, resources or advice.

How do you broaden your power network? Here are a few of Geri’s ideas:

1. Join the right business associations. You want people who can provide resources and knowledge, and who are willing to share them. How does the organization communicate? Are its members movers and shakers?

2. Leverage social media. In her webinar, Geri said women are great at sharing, bonding and engaging with others. Why not use that to your advantage, especially now when social media makes it so easy to reach across the table, not to mention the other side of the world?

3. Don’t leave out the men. It’s not “us versus them,” says Geri. This is very true. One of my longtime mentors is a successful, visionary businessman who has helped me build my company and kept me focused all along the way; VerticalResponse wouldn’t be what it is today without him.

Seek Outside Funding

Many women find it difficult to ask for favors or money. I know I sure did. But it’s something you just have to do, especially if you want to grow quickly and scale up. According to Geri, women start businesses with less capital and are less likely to tap into outside funding throughout the lifecycle of their business.

For me, I ended up asking friends and family to give me the initial funds to start VerticalResponse. (That’s the short version; for the full story, check out this Inc. post I wrote several years ago, “A Woman in Tech Speaks Out“). To show them that I was in it to win it, I invested a huge chunk of my own savings into the company as well. I set very specific goals those first couple of years, met them, and then asked them to give me more money. They did, and the rest is history, as they say. Sure, bringing on investors will mean that you’ll have a set of bosses to report to, but I think that’s a small price to pay for the all the great things that new funding can provide your business.

Take Center Stage

Women sometimes think that shouting from the rooftops and talking about their accomplishments are “not ladylike,” says Geri. It’s time to toss that way of thinking aside. If you’re not tooting your own horn and getting people excited about what you’ve done and what you can do, who will?

Here are a couple of tips from Geri on how to shine that spotlight your way:

1. Go after awards and “best of” lists, like the Inc. 5000. There also are smaller awards, too, like the Small Business Influencer Awards and I’m sure there are awards in your specific industry. I’m a huge believer in this, because it gives you third-party validation and lots of visibility. Every time VerticalResponse wins an award, we post it to our website and send out a press release. We get tons of coverage online so that when people are searching for us, they’ll see that we’re credible.

2. Position yourself as a leader. Sign up for speaking engagements, host a webinar (like Geri did) or conduct workshops. Of course, you’re there to help others and teach them, but a nice side benefit is that you’re exposing yourself and your company to a new audience. Every person in the crowd is a potential customer, and all eyes (and ears) are on you.

As Geri said in her webinar: “You’ve got the goods, so get out there.” Now is not the time to hold back or second-guess your abilities. Just go for it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How to Keep Soaring After Google’s Hummingbird Update

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 17:44

In these past few months Google has been busy with updates and we’ve got the lowdown on their newest algorithm called “Hummingbird.” Hummingbird is a complete rewrite of Google’s search algorithm – Their first rewrite in over 15 years. They rolled Hummingbird out almost a month ago, so the short and quick of it is, if you haven’t seen any traffic changes, then you probably don’t have much to be concerned about from a search engine optimization stand point. Hummingbird is an entirely new algorithm, unlike Panda or Penguin, which merely changed parts of the old algorithm.

This may be a bit confusing, so Danny Sullivan, of SearchEngineLand, broke it down, ”Panda, Penguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Think of it again like an engine. Those things were as if the engine received a new oil filter or had an improved pump put in. Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some of the same parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda.”

Hummingbird combined with Google’s new 100% (not provided) keyword update has delivered quite the beating to keywords. Google’s thinking behind the Hummingbird update is that it will make individual keywords less important, but will make the intent of the search phrase and words more important. Hummingbird will provide more answers to searches rather than results by using inquisitive words like “how,” “why,” “when,” and “where” in addition to other search terms. Searches will become much more conversational in nature indicating that long tail keywords could help drive your business in the future.

What can you do?

The Google Hummingbird update is very mobile focused, so make sure that your site is ready for the mobile world. Google did a post about the importance and increase of mobile searches. Google’s new voice search can pair together several different searches while keeping the context. Setting your site up with a responsive site template will help it perform better in mobile searches. Hopefully you’ve also been creating better content since Penguin and Panda hit, which should boost your long tail keywords, which will then fly well with Hummingbird.

What do you think about all these updates Google’s been pushing forward? Has your searching life became faster and easier? Share you thoughts in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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4 Strategies for Dealing with Negative Comments

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 06:00

There’s nothing like a negative public comment or nasty message on social media to really put a damper on your day, or your business. Even a single critical voice can have a big impact and might seem to outweigh a symphony of supportive ones.

Since dealing with difficult comments can both drain energy and consume, it’s important to differentiate between disgruntled customers and anonymous haters, and to respond to each appropriately. The following strategies can help you and your small business manage the inevitable but it’s up to you to determine which is the most appropriate for your communication style, specific readership and business.

Strategy #1: Establish a written policy for blog comments.

Setting very clear boundaries with readers about which types of comments are appropriate, and how you’ll handle them, can help prevent problematic behavior from happening in the first place. In addition, you can simply point to the comment policy on your blog if you get complaints for deleting a comment (for example).

Best-selling author Tim Ferriss has a comment policy on his highly trafficked blog. It reads:

“Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation!”

Even the Mayo Clinic, the renowned medical center, has a comment policy for all of their blogs, letting commenters know that comments are reviewed before going live. It reads:

“We encourage your comments on Mayo Clinic’s various blogs, and hope you will join the discussions. We can’t respond to every comment, particularly those that deal with individual medical cases and issues. We review comments before they’re posted, and those that are off-topic or clearly promoting a commercial product generally won’t make the cut. We also expect a basic level of civility; disagreements are fine, but mutual respect is a must, and profanity or abusive language are out-of-bounds.”

Strategy #2: Moderate comments.

Mayo Clinic isn’t the only blog to moderate comments. In fact, if your site is hosted on WordPress (the most popular content management system and publishing platform), many comment moderation options are available.

The Settings Discussion SubPanel on your blog (located under Settings → Discussion) has multiple options.

Comments can be turned off for individual articles (or all of them). You can require users to fill out their name and email address before commenting, hold comments in moderation before they appear (either at all times or if the author hasn’t posted a previously approved comment), and even automatically place comments in the moderation queue if they have specific words, names, email addresses or IP addresses. You can also blacklist specific IP addresses.

Strategy #3: Ignore hostile comments, but respond to legitimate concerns—in private, if possible.

Whether you decide to delete comments or not, UIC professor of communication Steve Jones recommends ignoring trolls to the best of your ability. “If it’s something that doesn’t seem legitimate, that’s very vitriolic, very angry, it’s probably best to just ignore it,” he says. Responding to legitimate concerns, however, is a good idea so some discretion is needed.

“It depends on the type of post or comment that you’re looking at. If it seems legitimate, if there’s a complaint that can be addressed in some way, a good rule of thumb is to address it and stick to the topic and keep it short. So if someone’s complaining about a product or service, you can say, ‘I’m sorry to hear that. Can we help in some way remedy this? Thanks for your comment,” and that’s it. Or ask them to message you directly, to try to keep it from becoming a dialogue that you’re constantly engaging in.”

Strategy #4: Respond to everyone privately.

This strategy is not for the faint of heart. Andrew Warner, founder of the website Mixergy, would seek out individuals who didn’t care for the interviews of entrepreneurs he released on his site. He even went beyond comments on his own site and would contact people speaking about him on outside forums.

“At the beginning, I would go to every single person on Hacker News who put me down and I would look up his or her contact information and call them up,” he recalls. “I’d say, ‘I just really want to learn, I really respect your opinion, I see that you don’t like my interviewing style. I need to get better here. Could you just tell me what it is that you don’t like about it?’”

While he didn’t implement all the feedback he received, some of it was incredibly useful. “The attitude of ‘I see you’re watching me and I want to get better, what can I do to get better’ really disarms people. They respect the effort. Maybe they give you useful information, maybe they shut up and maybe they continue, which is the worst case, but if they do continue, they were going to continue anyway,” he says.

Takeaways for small businesses

The four strategies outlined above are intended to not only help you find a consistent approach to dealing with unhappy, or malicious commenters online but to also find the approach that makes the best use of your resources and serves your small business well. Whichever of these strategies you end up implementing, remember to keep things in perspective. A small handful of negative comments rarely represent the majority of your readers. Create an open, but respectful, forum for customer feedback and your fans will back you up.

Want to learn how to turn positive comments and customers into advocates? Read our blog post here.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Does Your Product Need a Pick-Me-Up?

Wed, 10/02/2013 - 06:00

How do you know if it’s time to give your product or service a facelift?

Good question. How do you know? It can be scary to think about making a big change, but sometimes you need to in order to stay competitive or increase your revenue.

Fortune 500 businesses have tons of data and product marketing analysts to help them decide, but what’s a small business to do? It would be great if there were an easy formula to apply, but there’s not. So try asking yourself these questions:

Has it been a while since I’ve seen some of my regular customers?

If you answered, “yes,” your customers may be buying from your competitors. If your product has become stale or no longer meets a customer’s needs, this is a risk. Do a quick competitive analysis to see where you stack up. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you’re losing customers because of your product- you could have a very desirable product but have mis-set pricing or sub-par distribution.

Uber, the on-demand high-end car service, lets you summon a towncar that will arrive within minutes. With the rise of lower-cost competitors like Lyft and Sidecar, Uber realized it needed to add a less expensive offering and launched UberX, with pricing more comparable to a cab. You don’t get the fancy black sedan, but you still get the high-quality, on-demand service.

Have customers’ needs or wants changed since I introduced my product?

As with anything in product marketing, knowing your customers is key. Red Bull, the top-selling brand of energy drinks, created their flagship product before the low-carb, health-conscious craze. To adapt to their changing customer demand, the company has added sugar-free and zero-calorie, zero-carb products to their lineup, as well as three new flavors. That brings their total flavor count to four.

Red Bull’s nearest competitor, Monster Energy, has more than 30 flavors. Red Bull didn’t go with a knee-jerk reaction to match the competition, but spent the time to find out what their customers really wanted, and executed a simple plan well.

Can I create an additional product feature or service that people would gladly pay for?

This scenario is much more difficult to identify than the previous two, because your customers are most likely happily using your product. The opportunity here lies not in preventing revenue loss, but adding a new source of revenue by providing an additional feature or service that is valuable to your customers.

The online bulletin board Pinterest has recently dipped its toes into this water. Pinterest has 70 million users, who pay nothing for the service. In an effort to monetize this huge audience without charging a membership fee, Pinterest is testing selling promoted pins to advertisers. The promoted pins are still being tested, but based on Facebook’s success with promoted posts, advertisers will most likely be happy to pay to feature their products and services more prominently.

Have there been industry or technology changes we can take advantage of?

Can your product be made more valuable to customers, or created less expensively, if you incorporate new technologies?

We here at VerticalResponse are planning a major product upgrade in a few months. Why? Two main reasons: Customer needs have changed, and new technologies, not available when we first built our product, allow us to provide additional online marketing services as well as a faster and simpler user experience.

A note of caution: Change just for the sake of change is not an improvement. (I call this the “New Coke” lesson). Be sure you can articulate the reasons you want/need to change. (“It seems like a good time to change” is not an answer!) Make sure any change you’re considering actually makes your product better or provides greater value to your customers. And please, please, please talk to your customers and get their views before you make any changes.

Have you changed your product or have you considered giving your product a refresh? Tell us about it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Will the Federal Government Shutdown Affect Small Businesses?

Tue, 10/01/2013 - 09:46

The federal government shut down this morning and will stay closed until Congress can come to an agreement on how to fund day-to-day operations. How will this shutdown affect small businesses? The biggest impact could be on financing. According to The Washington Post, “The Small Business Administration has provided guarantees for some $106 billion in loans to more than 193,000 small businesses over the last four years. It also runs programs to help small firms win government contracts, help veteran-owned businesses, and boost international trade.”

The Post goes on to say, “All that would cease in a shutdown. Although the SBA would continue to back existing loans in its portfolio, it wouldn’t initiate any new loan guarantees. The one exception here is the Disaster Loan Program, which steps in during natural disasters and other emergencies — that would continue to operate.”

If your small business contracts with the federal government you will also experience an impact. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, “Contractors will have to manage cash flow as payments for government work may be delayed or canceled outright.” They go on to say, “The timing of the current shutdown is especially disruptive, says Rebecca Rubin, chief executive officer of Marstel-Day, a 130-employee environmental consulting firm that contracts with federal agencies to turn shuttered military bases into parkland. Many federal contracts are scheduled to start today, Rubin says, as the government’s fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. “Technically, you can’t start a project until you have a kick-off meeting,” she says. “If there’s no one from the government to talk to, there’s only so much work you can do.”

Will your small business be impacted by the shutdown? Share in the comments.

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Four Signs Your Business Needs a Members-Only Site

Tue, 10/01/2013 - 06:00

Membership-based websites have the potential to not only produce subscription income for your business but also to help you build customer engagement and develop a tight-knit online community for your brand’s biggest fans. That’s because these types of sites and forums are typically frequented by enthusiastic members who are incredibly invested in the subject matter, product or community.

Members-only sites typically fall into one of three categories:

- Charge a recurring fee, usually monthly or quarterly, in exchange for regularly updated content. One example is Chris Guillebeau’s Travel Hacking Cartel, a site that helps travelers rack up frequent flyer miles and get travel rewards.

- Charge a fee for access to an ‘insider’ message board, forum or mastermind group such as Tropical MBA’s Dynamite Circle, a site for entrepreneurs looking to discuss search marketing, conversions and affiliate marketing.

- The most popular option is a hybrid of the first two: charge for content that’s regularly updated, along with an active forum or message board for audience members to interact. An example is Leo Baubata’s Zen Habits Sea Change Program, which includes a video webinar, email reminders and several articles on a new habit each month, along with a private forum for accountability.

Some membership programs are ongoing, and others last for the duration of an online course, allowing participants to communicate with one another about the material. Ongoing programs allow for more continuity, while short-term ones frequently generate more buzz and allow you to make improvements with each iteration.

Whether you’re considering short-term offerings or long-term ones, how do you know if building a membership site is a good fit for your business?

1. You generate new content regularly

There’s no real need for a membership site for just a single product, and it’s difficult to maintain a dynamic site around a static product. However, if you’re planning to release content on a regular and ongoing basis but don’t want to give it all away, a paid membership site makes sense.

“An educational product, whether it’s an e-book or a video or a podcast, can be sold or given away as a one-time product,” says serial web entrepreneur Rob Walling, founder of online membership site the Micropreneur Academy and author of Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup.

Most businesses, even those that focus on providing great, original content, produce a relatively small volume of in-depth articles, posts and reports—the kind of added value that might make a subscription worth it for your readers.

2. You already have a large and engaged audience

If you’re creating an interactive membership site with a forum, Walling estimates that around 2,500 email subscribers or about 2,000 podcast listeners is the minimum number you’d need to get enough people to sign up. He recommends against using Twitter followers as a metric, however. “They’re not very engaged,” he warns.

And engagement is a big factor in developing a membership site, so if your site has indicators of a natural community forming “then you can take that community and tighten it and formalize it,” says Dan Himel, founder of Trainium, a platform for coaches looking to connect with and train clients online. “If you are blogging and you get comments immediately on everything you write,” and if your Facebook page and Twitter account have a similar feel, with lots of questions and comments and people interacting with one another, then that’s a good sign.

Your social media activity sets the stage for your membership site, and having a thriving community with lots of interaction is key.

Being inundated with requests for help via email and direct messages is another indicator that people trust you or your company enough to pay to be part of a membership site. Of course this is relevant for sites where all of the content comes directly for you, but it applies to sites with forums as well. If things get quiet, you can always answer user questions or provide that guidance your members are craving.

3. There’s a good reason for your audience to talk to one another

If you own a hot dog stand, your customers may not need to communicate with one another. However, if you’re selling craft beer, your audience may be very interested in discussing their favorite brews with other beer lovers. Any type of business built around a hobby that has a community would lend itself well to an online forum, so long as they have a desire to discuss their activity with one another. This allows them to create lasting connections and help one another, in addition to learning from your expertise.

4. You have adequate staff and resources to maintain a membership site

“It takes some time to nurture the community and even babysit it sometimes,” Himel says. “You have to come up with lots of stuff to keep the community thriving, especially in the early stages.” You’ll also need someone to moderate forums, troubleshoot any issues with the content, answer questions and deal with any problems that arise. If you don’t have the time or budget to maintain the site, a fan page on Facebook and engaging with your customers on Twitter and other social media may be the way to go.

Do you have a membership-only website, or are thinking about it? Share with us in the comments!

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending

Mon, 09/30/2013 - 06:00

Are your emails scheduled and sent like clockwork, or are they a little sporadic? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell!). Do you only send out one type of email, or do you have a variety of emails for every transaction or occasion? You don’t want to inundate your customers, readers, and/or leads, however, you do want to establish a relationship, build rapport, educate and of course, make some money. So, how do you accomplish all of this? By consistently sending out these three emails below – We’ll also tell you how often to send them and the best ways to execute. Let’s dive in:

1. Welcome Email
Are you rolling out the red carpet for your new customers? A recent study by Return Path found that 80% of companies now send out welcome emails, up from only 40% in 2008.

What to include in your welcome email:

  • What to expect. Warmly welcome readers to your mailing list and set expectations immediately. Let your readers know what you’ll share with them in your future emails, and how often. For example, you may offer advice and how-to articles, as well as some promotional offers. You may send bi-weekly, monthly, or another frequency. Stay true to whatever you promise! (You can get even more tips on send frequency here.).
  • A special offer. Want a little more love? Give your new subscribers a discount, offer, or gift for simply being a subscriber. Then, let your new subscribers know that as a subscriber, they’ll receive special email-only offers they can’t get anywhere else just by being on your list. They’ll be far more likely to open your future messages for enticing discounts.

*Timeliness is key when sending a welcome email. You want to send it out to your new subscribers as soon as possible after they subscribe.

2.  Newsletter
Many of our customers ask us about the difference between an email promotion/campaign and an email newsletter. The words are often used interchangeably, but an email promotion or campaign tends to communicate one single topic or idea, such as your current sale, or a new product, while an email newsletter often has multiple topics and tends to educate (vs. sell) and builds rapport with your readers. Your newsletter should always offer readers valuable information.

What to include in your newsletter:

  • News. Press releases, blog articles or other publications that will help your readers. (It’s a good idea to summarize longer articles in a few short sentences and create a call to action button for the reader to view the entire article on your website or blog.)
  • Upcoming events or webinars. These may be events you’re hosting or participating in. You may also announce speaking engagements such as interviews with your executives on radio shows, at college campuses and the like.
  • Important announcements. Include improvements to your products or services, new management, or new business practices. (If you are letting your customers know you are responding to their feedback and improving something for them, that’s always great news!)
  • Ways to connect on social media.  Include social networks you’re actively engaged on and updating regularly, as this is added value for your followers.
  • Images. Keep your newsletter interesting with images relating to your content.
  • Calls to actions.Tell your readers what you want them to do with clear calls to action such as read more, learn more, and register now. You can easily create call to action buttons for your website or emails and newsletters here.

Even though the word “newsletter” suggests a more lengthy communication, remember it’s still  an email amongst many others in the inbox! Try to avoid including too much information and text in one email. A good rule of thumb is no more than would fit on one page of a word document. Because newsletters are more comprehensive, once or twice a month is typically a good practice, however, depending on your business, and how much content you produce, weekly might work as well. If you want more information about newsletters, we have a handy webinar titled: Creating a Significant Email Newsletter

3. Promotional Emails
Everyday, most of us receive tons of emails from various companies and let’s be honest, most customers want to know “What’s in it for me?”. If you don’t provide real value, it’s very easy for subscribers to click that little unsubscribe button! How can you help avoid that? Offer something valuable and unique…

What to include in your promotional emails:

  • A NEW offer. Emphasis on the word new. If you offered 10 percent off all window frames last month, it’s old news this month! If you do repeat a certain offer, don’t repeat it back-to-back or multiple times in a row (you’re readers will think you’re a one trick pony!).
  • A compelling offer. Discounts are great, but does the discount you’re offering compel your readers to click through all the way to the shopping cart? Try testing different offers to see which ones are the most effective. Enticing customers with specific products or services can be more effective than a set discount amount off all items or services. This is especially true of seasonal items.
  • Clear calls to action. Make it as easy as possible for the reader to get the promotion. This may mean buttons leading to a shopping page on your website or links to pages with already inserted promo codes or registration forms. Just make sure as few steps as possible are involved in going from reading your email to purchasing the product. Don’t make it hard to buy.

*Be cautious not to send promotional emails too often. Once every 2 weeks or once a month are good general practices.

By including these three types of emails in your email marketing plan, you can help keep your subscribers engaged, loyal and spending. You can get more helpful email marketing resources here including free guides, webinars are more.

Are there any other types of emails you think are important to include in your email marketing plan? Share in the comments!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly: Cool Spoiler App and Durable External Battery [VIDEO]

Sat, 09/28/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we share a cool new app that allows you to foil the spoiler as the incredible television series, Breaking Bad comes to an end. Aptly named SpoilerFoiler, it’s brought to us by the folks at Netflix. We also share one of the most stylish and durable external batteries we’ve ever seen from Kickstarter darlings, Zendure.


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Facebook Now Lets You Edit Posts

Fri, 09/27/2013 - 09:09

Facebook announced yesterday that you can now edit your posts. If you’ve ever had an unfortunate typo in your post (who hasn’t, right?), you can rest easy knowing you’ll now be able to quickly and easily edit it. But, the option to edit posts is only available right now for the Android Facebook App. According to Mashable, “The editing feature will roll out to Facebook users on the web and Android devices over the next day. The editing feature is not included in the latest iOS app, but will likely get pushed out in the next update.”

To avoid potential editing abuses, Facebook will mark edited posts as edited and will let users access edit history with a click.

What are your thoughts on being able to edit posts on Facebook? Share away in the comments.


© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Facebook Friday: How to Post from Page to Profile + Mobile App Update [VIDEO]

Fri, 09/27/2013 - 07:00

In this episode of Facebook Friday, we highlight the Facebook Mobile App update in conjunction with the rollout of iOS7. We also show you how to share content from your Facebook Business Page to your personal profile.


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5 Metrics Every Marketer Needs to Keep an Eye On

Fri, 09/27/2013 - 06:00

Every Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m., you’ll find me in our recurring marketing team meeting we fondly refer to as “Triple S,” which stands for “Sell Some Stuff.” This is one of my favorite meetings of the week. I swear, I actually look forward to it (and I’m not a huge fan of meetings to begin with). We’ve got representation from each of the core groups within marketing and spend a whirlwind hour reviewing key metrics from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

No matter what your business, you need to know how you’re doing when it comes to bringing fresh new leads in and converting those leads into sales. Here are five key metrics from top to bottom that we keep an eye on.


Almost any business will benefit by getting more quality visitors to its website, and ours is no exception. We use a variety of tactics to drive traffic to our site including paid search, display ads, retargeting and of course, killer content. And by sharing this killer content across a variety of channels from social media to other authoritative sites, we get our messages out to a breadth of people that may have a use for our products and services.

We keep a keen eye on our traffic and where it’s coming from using Google Analytics. And, like many other companies, we track how this incoming traffic converts to free trial sign-ups all the way through to becoming paying customers.

2. Conversion

At VerticalResponse, we offer a free 30-day trial for anyone that signs up for our service. So an important metric for us to track is how many of those free-trialers become paying customers. We also need to know how long it takes for that to happen. If you have a free product or service, you know it’s vital to convert a percentage of them to paying customers. Knowing how many convert and when can help you make some key decisions along the way.

For instance, during a newbie’s free trial we send a series of helpful e-mails to encourage them to try out different parts of our application. Ultimately, we want them to send out a great-looking and engaging e-mail or social media post. By knowing how long it takes for someone to “typically” convert, we are able to tweak the quantity and cadence of these e-mail messages and optimize the user experience. (By the way, this is an ongoing effort; unlike a good story, there is no clear beginning, middle and end!)

3. Revenue

Every member of our team has a goal to help us achieve our revenue and we maintain a laser-like focus on it every day, as most businesses do. By forecasting our revenue based on last year’s numbers, trends, seasonality and pacing, we are able to have a clear picture-day by day-of what we need to achieve. If a day goes off the rails, you’ll know exactly how much you need to do in sales in a day to make it up and how likely that is to achieve.

You’ll often know that the end of the month or quarter is near when you start getting special offers and promotions–everyone’s gotta make their goals or at least close out the month trying!

4. Lifetime Value

Speaking of revenue, once you get people to hand over their credit card, you’re going to want to keep them staying and paying for life. This is where the lifetime value of each customer comes into play. If you know how long a typical customer stays with you and approximately how much they spend over this time, you can easily figure out the lifetime value.

Let’s say your average customer stays with your company for five years and makes four purchases totaling $25 each time; the customer’s lifetime value would be $500. You can break this number down across your different personas and types of customers and then figure out how to acquire more customers like the ones that spend the most, stay the longest, etc.

5. Churn

Nobody likes to talk about churn because we all want to believe that no one would leave us and move on, but it happens and it’s an incredibly powerful metric. If you measure it consistently and over time, you will see any unusual spikes or valleys. And you can track those back to things that may have happened.

Say, for instance, your site goes down and no customers can access their accounts for 18 hours. Chances are, some folks are going to get ticked and leave, resulting in a spike in your churn pattern. Or you increase your pricing and make some major changes to your service that might leave some customers feeling left out. Again, that may initiate an increase in churn. By measuring your churn rate and having goals around it you can keep this important metric top of mind.

These are just a handful of the many metrics my team and I use to drive our business forward on a daily basis. What’s your take?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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