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Google Webmaster Tools: Your Map in the Internet Wilderness

Mon, 07/15/2013 - 08:15

If you’ve ever gone backpacking you know there are a few items you wouldn’t dare go without. A tent, sleeping bag, some food and of course a map! The internet can be similar to the wilderness in many aspects; it’s big, confusing, wild, and sometimes downright scary, so a map would be a helpful tool to have on the web. Have no fear because on your internet backpacking adventure Google has a map for you and it’s called Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools is a tool Google built that helps webmasters (read: owner of the website aka, YOU) stay connected, receive messages, get stats and other valuable data.

Here’s the lowdown on Webmaster Tools, how to sign up and what to do once you get all settled in:

How Do I Sign Up?

First, you’ll need a Google account, so if you’ve already grabbed your Google+ profile (like we suggested here) you’re already ahead of the game! Sign into your Google account, then click here and complete the sign up process. Make sure you put in your most current information and keep it updated with any changes. We’ve heard stories about Google trying to contact webmasters about an issue with their site, but their contact information is stale and they can’t be reached.

Once you have your Webmaster Tools account set up, make sure you give Google the right information. There are some things you’ll want to do on the first day you set up Webmaster Tools, and some that you can do in the days that follow.

Day 1:

Submit site map to Google: If you haven’t done this already, get on it! A site map is extremely helpful to Google as it tells them all the pages on your site so that they don’t have to spend so much time crawling it. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress there are many plug-ins that will automatically generate a site map for you and submit it to Google without you having to lift a finger. This is the easiest way to do it because you would have a heck of a time adding to your sitemap every time you add a new page. Here is a free sitemap generator that’s fast, quick, and easy.

Following Days:

This tool isn’t a set it and forget it situation, it provides tons of great data for you, so you’ll  want to check in every so often. For bigger sites you might want to check daily, but smaller sites with less activity you can check bi-weekly or even monthly.

Check for site errors: If Google detects issues with your site, like if someone hacked it, or if there are a lot of 404 pages, they will let you know in the Crawl > Crawl Errors tab. It’s important for Google to see that your site is in tip-top health, so that it will be a good experience for the visitor. A site with lots of 404′d pages and other issues doesn’t provide a good experience for the visitor and Google won’t want to serve your page up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).

View analytics: Do you want to know where your site is showing up? How many people are seeing you in the SERP? What keywords are driving traffic? All of these questions (and more) can be answered with the analytic information in Webmaster Tools. Think of this as a slimmed down version of Google Analytics, which is another free tool by Google, but a lot easier to read and manage. The Search Traffic tab would be a good section to check weekly, if not daily for some webmasters who must know all the things about their site. A great place to find missed opportunities for you business is in the keywords area. You might be surprised to see where your site is popping up in the search results and it could even inspire you to write a blog post around these keywords.

When you’re hiking through the internet be sure to have your Webmaster Tools “map” with you and you’ll never get lost. Do you already use Webmaster Tools and have some great tips you want to share? Let’s hear it 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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Is Your Office Suffering from Bad Manners?

Mon, 07/15/2013 - 06:00
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In an effort to remove barriers to working together and foster collaboration, many companies have taken down old-school cubicles in favor of more open spaces. Those cavernous, lofty work spaces sure look awesome–but is all this openness a little too open and are co-workers starting to get on each other’s nerves?

From typing too loudly to personal phone calls to the loathsome habit of clipping nails at a desk, let’s examine some common habits that might be annoying the heck out of your office neighbors and causing trouble in the workplace.

Save it for the Bathroom, Please

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One of the top things that peeve co-workers is personal hygiene being conducted at the desk or in shared office areas. The biggest offenders include clipping nails (fingers and, yes, toes), flossing teeth and putting on a full face of makeup.

And apparently, some bosses participate in this behavior, too. The product marketing director at VerticalResponse, shared her story about a time when one of her bosses took off his shoes and socks in a meeting, put his feet on the table and proceeded to clip his toenails. I’m not kidding. This same boss also cleaned his ears with the pull-back tab from a coffee cup lid during another meeting. Imagine trying to carry on a professional conversation while that’s happening?! The director ended up politely excusing herself from the room, but she could have also let her boss know his bare feet and nail clipping made her feel uncomfortable so she wouldn’t have to get up and leave each time it happened.

Your Noises Are Putting People Over the Edge

When you sit in close proximity to others, the little things can start to grate on people. Even though the sight of people with headphones listening to the latest tunes on Spotify is now commonplace at work, you can’t block it all out. Some of the offenses that people cite as annoying include ongoing throat clearing, coughing, sniffing and piercing laughter. Loud typing, finger drumming and taking conference calls on speaker phone also are common workplace offenders. If this gets your goat, it’s fine to communicate with the person making the noise and politely ask them to turn down the volume, etc. The key here is mutual respect and keeping it professional.

Kitchen Nightmares

Having a kitchen in your office is a great benefit, but can lead to all kinds of annoyances big and small. We once found a pair of running shoes in our common freezer! Why? The owner of the sneakers claimed that the freezer kills the bacteria that makes running shoes smell and thought nothing wrong of placing them in there. Understandably, her co-workers didn’t share her rationale.

Some other kitchen faux pas include not cleaning up after yourself, leaving a sink full of dishes, not making coffee when the pot is empty, not running the dishwasher, and cooking overly fragrant foods like fish, popcorn and broccoli. Have you encountered any of these kitchen offenses? Most often, these things can be addressed directly. Most people get that they should clean up after themselves, they often are just busy and forget. A little reminder and nudge can go a long way.

Too Much Information

We’ve all encountered the colleague who feels a bit too comfortable with co-workers, sharing intimate details of her latest date or every last detail about his kid’s school field trip. And if the oversharer doesn’t get you, then you might have a Chatty Cathy in the ranks who spends a good chunk of the day with her endless chatter about everything under the sun, distracting you and everyone around her. If you’ve got one of these folks in your crew you can let them know you love to chat, but you’ve got a lot of deadlines and need to tend to your work first.

One of the last examples I’ve got is the co-worker who takes her cell phone into the restroom and proceeds to have a conversation while doing her “business.” My question is, what do you do when it’s time to flush? I got my answer when my product marketing director told me about the time she was on the phone with her VP when all of a sudden she heard it–the sound of a flush!

Do you witness these common co-worker annoyances happening in your office? Got any you want to add to the list? Let’s hear ‘em and how you deal in the comments below!

© 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 Should You Know About Keywords – The Long and Short of It

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 08:15

As a small biz you’ve probably dabbled a bit in trying to get your business found on search engines. Under the broad umbrella of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which includes both paid search as well as organic search engine optimization, there’s a common strategy that involves focusing on what’s known as “Long Tail” Keywords. It can be challenging to achieve high organic rankings for “Short Tail” or “Head” terms. and that’s true for achieving a high position with paid search ads as well. By focusing on “long tail” keywords as part of your strategy, you can achieve a more desirable position while targeting the right people and at a lower cost. Does that sound complicated or tricky? It doesn’t have to be and we’ll give you the scoop on “long tail” versus “short tail” keywords as well as some of the benefits.

What are “long tail” keywords, and how do they differ?

Essentially, long tail keywords are keyword phrases made up of 3-5 words. They tend to have less traffic because they’re not as popular as better-known “head” terms. “Head” terms, or “short tail” terms, refer to more commonly used words, for example, “running shoes.” These usually tend to be around two words. Because people will likely search those terms more often than “long tail keywords,” they bring in more traffic and are therefore more desirable. “Long tail” keywords on the other hand, are less popular but are more targeted to specific searches and come with less competition. We’ll illustrate using the following example, “running shoes” versus “order running shoes online.” The first one is a head term, only two words, and the latter is considered a long-tail keyword, four words.

By looking at the example, as an advertiser, you’re able to deduce a lot more of the searcher’s intent, which is why targeting these “long tail keywords” is important and can be a cost effective method to advertise your product or services.

 

 

What are the benefits?

More targeted – As mentioned above, one of the biggest benefits to long tail keywords is that you can better understand a searcher’s intent. By targeting these limited searches, your ad is likely to be a lot more relevant to what people are actually searching for versus searches with a more generic term. This will help you to focus more on these qualified buyers, which will boost conversion rates, as well as possibly lower your costs and increase ROI.

Less competition – Long tail keyword phrases are less popular and don’t apply to all searches. Due to the low search volume of these terms, fewer advertisers will be competing for them. The less advertisers bidding on your phrase, means a higher potential for people searching to click on your ad and ultimately make a purchase.

Lower cost – Because pay-per-click marketing is essentially an auction for keywords or phrases, less competitors generally means you won’t have to bid as much for a particular keyword or phrase. This theoretically keeps average cost-per-clicks and CPAs lower than what you might spend on short tail keywords.

What are the negatives?

Limiting or limited traffic – Since your long tail keyword phrases may be really specific, you’ll be losing out on potential impressions that would come from using “head” terms instead. Since not as many people use these phrases when searching, the search volume may often times be really low and won’t get that many people to your site. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It might not bring you the amount of people you would ideally want, but it will help you find qualified people and not spend your marketing dollars on those who aren’t likely to purchase. By focusing on multiple long tail keywords, you can potentially make up the search volume difference.

Under using terms that convert – If you’re just starting out and are only using long tail keywords, you may be leaving out some more popular terms that can convert just as well. By using different match types and reviewing Search Query Reports, you can help combat that and add in new keywords as your campaigns start to become more profitable or budgets increase.

How to find the best keywords for your campaign and tools to help

Researching long tail keywords doesn’t differ much from developing other keyword lists. It’s a good idea to start off by looking at competitor terms, as well as your own website analytics to get a better idea of what’s already driving people to your site. Building off of that in combination with other keyword tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool and WordStream you should be able to come up with a good starting list.

Using “long tail” keyword phrases should be part of every SEM strategy as well as used in conjunction with some more popular “head” terms when possible. “Short tail”, or “head” terms, help capture searchers who are higher up the funnel, in the research or informational stage, and help bring awareness to your site. Long tail keywords will help capture people who may be looking for something specific and are therefore much more likely to be in the buying stage. The closer you target a person at the buying stage the more likely they are to make a purchase or take another desired action.

For more information and research tips visit PPC Hero and this post from VerticalResponse.

© 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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Can Your Employees Push Back?

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 06:00
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As the CEO of VerticalResponse, I’m actively involved in the day-to-day and right now I’ve got 12 direct reports. They span from coordinators to SVP level, so I’m dealing with a varied bag of experience and know-how. My team understands that as involved as I am, each one of them is empowered to chart the course for their projects, make decisions and get stuff done to meet our individual and collective company goals.

I was in a meeting with my director of content marketing the other day and she asked me a pretty interesting question… “How do you like to receive push back?” She was asking because not everyone feels comfortable and confident pushing back on the boss (me in this case). It got me thinking about this; as the boss you have to take the fear and risk out of the equation for your employees concerning taking a stance. Allow them to:

1. Just Do It

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Imagine that your employee already feels intimidated and scared. Let them know that you hired them because of their expertise, experience and knowledge about what they do. As the CEO or boss, you don’t know everything about everything — that’s why you need them and want them to share what they know, even if it conflicts with something you think or say. Of course, the feedback should be communicated in a respectful and business appropriate manner — something like, “I disagree here because I have some data from a recent customer survey that our customers prefer X, not Y,” is preferable to “You don’t have a clue. I know what our customers want.”

2. Stop Agreeing

Have you ever been in a meeting where there was that person that shook their head and agreed with everything that was being said, but then walked out of the meeting and slammed everything and disagreed? Passive-aggressive agreement serves no one especially when it comes to business. Allow for an environment where people feel like they are being heard and can say what’s on their mind.

3. Have a POV

Your employees are smart otherwise you wouldn’t keep them around, so allow them to have an opinion and bring it. Having differing points of views and opinions is the stuff that great products and companies are made of. Being part of the big idea or a collaborative process means everyone speaks up, shares and takes risks. Provide that safe environment where employees can speak up, be heard and be valued for it.

You may be at the top of the org chart, but you admittedly don’t have all the answers. You need and depend on your team for information, solutions and getting stuff done, so make sure they feel included in the decision making process all along the way. For instance, if I’m in a meeting and someone asks me what I think we should do, I often turn the tables (in a good way) and ask them what they recommend.

Using the example above, if I ask what someone thinks and then ignore their response, you can imagine how they’d feel. So no matter what, you must actively listen to what people have to say, consider it and take it in, no matter how strongly you feel about it. Otherwise, you’ll be a hypocrite and no one wants that.

So how do you handle it if you just don’t agree and need to make a decision that your employee doesn’t share? Being honest and transparent is your best bet. Let your employee know that you’ve heard what they had to say, that you really value their opinion, but for [insert the reason] this decision needs to be made. Most employees get that as the boss you have to make tough choices sometimes, and as long as they are considered and valued in the process, they’ll buy in and support it.

How do you prefer or handle getting push back? Got any advice to add?

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

© 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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7 Email Testing & Delivery Tools for a Biz on a Budget

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 06:00
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You hear so many rumors about what you can or can’t include in your email if you don’t want it to land in spam. But a lot of those are exactly that, rumors.

Using an ESP, like VerticalResponse, is an excellent start to ensuring inbox placement, but spam filters look for various things in emails to determine where they end up. Are there too many links in your email? Did you use the word “Free” one too many times? To help dispel the myths, we put some email testing and delivery tools to the test using the same HTML code and subject line from one of our recent newsletters. Here’s what we discovered:

Puts Mail

Puts Mail is a basic testing application, but you can get some good information about your HTML using this tool. First, they send you a test of your email, so you can see it in your inbox. If you’re using an ESP, you probably have this feature already, but if you don’t, it allows you to see your how your email will appear in the inbox of your choice. Then the tool goes through your code and detects if there’s anything that could cause an issue and what that might be. Our newsletter checked out okay, though anyone using Lotus Notes or Eudora may have some issues with the CSS that was included. CSS is something that can be tricky in different email programs; if you’re using CSS, be sure to keep it inline to ensure it will work across a variety email programs. For more tips on HTML for emails, check out our HTML Tips for Designing Your Email guide.

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We’re fans of this tool because of the various email program display views. It’s always important to know how things will appear for all of your readers and the different programs they use. Email on Acid offers a free version that shows what your email looks like in Gmail and Outlook 2003, plus they take a look at your HTML and let you know if there are any issues. The paid versions offer more inbox examples, more analysis, and check for spam filter triggers. Our newsletter looked great with the free trial test on these two programs, but as we learned from the previous tool, there could be some rendering issues on older email programs.

Email Reach

Email Reach takes a different approach to testing emails by providing a seed list of addresses to test. The nice thing about this service is that they can test email programs around the world and on mobile. You just need to download the list they provide, upload to your ESP and then send test emails to that seed list. They’ll give you reporting on how your email works in all the different accounts that they monitor. They offer a 24-hour free trial and then a paid version once that expires. They also check for spam folder placement and will analyze content and HTML for possible spam problems.

Lyris ContentChecker

If you’re worried about specific content that could cause your email to land in the spam folder, this is the free tool for you. Lyris checks the HTML and the content of your email and gives you score based on where the email will end up. Zero is the best, anything over 3.0 and they recommend changing your content to help ensure your email doesn’t get marked as spam. They’re checking through SpamAssassin, a very popular spam filter, for anything that is usually associated with spam. Their website gives you a quick analysis and then they send an email with more info and links to help you understand email delivery and how you can improve yours.  Our newsletter got a zero; we like to practice what we preach!

Litmus

Much like Email on Acid, Litmus offers a limited free test and a paid version with more bells and whistles. The free test covers pretty much any email program your readers could be using, plus mobile ones. While the other tests are done in seconds, this one takes awhile, but for free we were willing to wait a bit. There is also a subject line checker, to see how your From label and subject line will look in different email programs, landing page links and again, HTML analysis. There is one test per email address, but the paid version allows unlimited testing for all the features mentioned. As with the test on Puts Mail, our CSS was trouble but otherwise the email looked good.

Email Spam Test

Email Spam Test is another free tool that provides you information about whether your email may go to a spam folder. They don’t provide much detail, but if there was a potential issue with your code or content they let you know. Our newsletter did fine, although they weren’t sure about the subject line. When we actually sent this newsletter, the subject line performed on target and our opens/clicks stats were right on the mark.

Postmark

This is also a free spam test, but it requires a bit more info than you may have. Not only do you need to paste in the HTML from your email, but you also need to include the full headers as well. It makes for a much more thorough test but also more time consuming. Just like Lyris, they’ll give you your SpamAssassin score and let you know how close to spam your email is.

There are many applications out there to test your email; these are just a few to get you started. Continue to test different things with your email and content especially if you find any problems getting delivered to the inbox.

We also have free guides to help you, and for more anti-spam specifics, check out our webinar, How to Avoid the Spam Folder.

Have you checked out any recent email testing apps yet? Let us know 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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Should LinkedIn Groups Be Part of Your Social Strategy?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 06:00
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Labeled the “professional” social network, LinkedIn boasts nearly 250 million users. But unfortunately, a lot of people take a “set it and forget it” approach when it comes to one of the larger social networks around. If this is your tactic when tackling LinkedIn, we’d like to share with you some thoughts on how to better utilize a very important and useful piece of your social strategy.

When people sign up for LinkedIn, a lot of them look at it as a place to house their resume and revisit only when they need to update some info or when they’re trying to discover where someone works. Well, those people are only scratching the surface of this very powerful social network and not experiencing its true potential. Even if you’re visiting LinkedIn on a daily basis and perusing the timeline like you would on your Facebook account, you’re still missing where the magic happens. This magical place is called LinkedIn Groups.

LinkedIn Groups are exactly what they sounds like, groups of people discussing a common subject such as social media, email marketing or advertising. But unlike groups on other social networks such as Facebook, you’re dealing with a very professional environment where people are not only trying to gain useful information, but they’re also trying to provide it as well.

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What does all of this collaboration offer? It’s provides an environment where you can build solid relationships with like minded individuals which can have a very positive effect on you and your business. So what is the makeup of a LinkedIn Group and how can you get involved?

If you haven’t been back to LinkedIn in a while, why don’t we start with how to navigate to Groups and provide you with some tips on how to successfully make them a part of your overall social strategy. First, you want to log into your LinkedIn account. Then, click on the drop down arrow in the little gray box next to the long search box and click on groups.

Finally, type in a subject in the search box that is pertinent to your business and click the magnifying glass. In our example we used social media:

You will not only see how many results are returned for your word or phase, but LinkedIn goes one step further by providing key information about the groups that are returned. You’re served up factoids such as how active the groups are, how many discussions have taken place this month, how many total members are in the group and how many of those members are in your overall LinkedIn network. This provides guidance on whether the LinkedIn Group is a good fit for you.

Now finding the group you might want to participate in is the easy part. Because as you’ll discover, not all LinkedIn Groups are created equal. A lot of groups are open and allow anyone to join and post. But others, like my Digital Marketing group example below are closed. This means that even if you join a particular group, you must still be approved by the owner or manager(s).

This allows the administrators to limit the members to subject experts thus leading to more quality discussions. It also curbs any spammers from infiltrating the walls of a particular group. But even if you’re invited into a particular closed group, you may have one more hurdle to jump, which is moderation. As with my example below, some of the larger groups (like Inbound Marketers with nearly 100,000 members) have people that come in and spam their wares and services. This sometimes forces the owner or manager to implement a moderation protocol. This chokes the group discussion dynamic but is a necessary evil to combat spam.

But this moderation aspect does validate my point about how to effectively use LinkedIn Groups as part of your social strategy. That point is to be human and stimulate real discussion. People, especially smart professionals that participate in LinkedIn Groups, can tell when you’re being genuine. If you’re simply throwing up links back to your website to generate traffic, people will get wise. But if you’re bringing great questions and sharing enlightening answers in the discussion, people will remember that. And, the great thing about having this activity take place on LinkedIn is that with a click of your name, they can jet on over to find out where you work.

So I’ll finally answer my own question: YES! LinkedIn Groups should certainly be part of your social strategy. But they have to be used in the proper way for you to see some real return on your investment. Tell us about your success with LinkedIn Groups because we’d love to know!

Want more info on using LinkedIn? Check out our guide, 5 Ways to Take Advantage of LinkedIn and Help Your Business Grow.

© 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 Your Energy Affects Your Team

Fri, 07/05/2013 - 06:00
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Have you ever considered how your energy affects everyone around you? Think about it from the vantage of being the CEO of a company. When you walk in the door, all eyes are on you and your employees’ antennae are up looking for any sign of something being not quite right. No pressure, eh?

When you’re the boss, there are going to be many times when you’ve gotta put on your “game face” because your energy affects everyone and everything.

In the last 12 years at VerticalResponse, I’ve had some leaders with great energy, and some that could suck the life out of the Energizer Bunny. Whether you’re the CEO or a manager leading a team, here are some pointers to make sure you bring your can-do attitude because if you don’t, your team won’t, either:

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All Eyes Are On You

Like I said, even a casual walk around the office can put people in a tizzy if you’re giving off bad vibes and exuding a “stay the ‘f’ away from me because I’m having a real sh*& day” attitude. You might not be aware of it, but like a dog with a bone, your team has a laser-like focus to detect this stuff and they’ll either call you on it or–most likely–just talk amongst themselves.

The same goes for bad-mouthing other executives or team members. Don’t poison your own well. Your employees have to work for–and with–these folks, so if you’ve got a beef with someone, keep it under wraps or between yourself and the person.

Are You Excited?

Are you genuinely excited about the products and services your company offers? Do you love your customers? Do you love what you do every day?

I’m one of those people who can answer yes to each of those questions, but not everyone can. So do you fake it till you make it? Because, trust you me, if you’re not living and breathing it every day, your team knows it and it can leach the lifeblood out of them. The energy and enthusiasm you generate and breathe into your company can breed and multiply a thousand times over. You’ve gotta be shakin’ those pom-poms all the way to your corner office. And you’ve gotta mean it.

You (Really) Care

I had a VP of marketing once that just didn’t have it in his DNA to lead our team. At the end of the day, he was a super-smart guy and totally got the business side, but when it came to his people? Fail. Why? Because he just didn’t care. And his team could tell.

For example, when he came to work in the morning, he would walk right past a number of his direct reports’ desks without making eye contact or saying a “hello.” A number of them mentioned to me that it felt really odd. I spoke with him about it and he said, “No problem, I can do that.” So he proceeded to walk in, say, “Hi! How was your weekend?” and then … he just walked away. He didn’t have the patience or the desire to hear the answer. It just wasn’t his thing. And his team felt really slighted and devalued. This carried over to the way he treated them in meetings and other office situations, too. It got so bad that we had to part ways. It’s unfortunate, but when you’ve got a team, you have to be a team. And that means you have to care about your team members.

Are you in tune with how your energy is affecting your employees? Got any examples to share?

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

© 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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Slow and Steady Wins the Social Media Race

Wed, 07/03/2013 - 06:00
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Social media is growing at an impressive rate. It seems like every week a new app, website or platform is created that connects friends, acquaintances and strangers, or allows broad-spectrum posting of text, images or video. And while the majority of these new solutions are geared towards the individual user, several have become every day tools of modern marketers. But, while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have all proven to be important and useful arrows to have in the marketing quiver, often times businesses will make the mistake of grabbing hold of the latest social media tool and swinging wildly. According to Steven Strauss, small business expert and author of “The Small Business Bible,” 53% of small businesses still struggle to use social media effectively.

Back in 2008, while working for a mid-size PR agency based in Washington D.C., Twitter was not yet a year old, but was gaining popularity. Our CEO came out of his office and stopped at my desk. “Eli,” he said, “I need you to go online and create a Twitter account for our company and start tweeting.” I stared back at him blankly. I had signed up for a personal Twitter account and was still just dipping my toes in the water of a platform, whose potential had yet to become clear to me. The CEO’s view of this tool that he barely understood was that he needed to be using it to remain current. In the end, he was right – Twitter became and still is a powerful tool for marketing your company and brand. But at the time, it was too new to be used effectively.

Info & Image from a Staples Small Business Survey.

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Facebook, began as an exclusively college and individual focused networking site. Overtime, it has developed into a sounding board for individuals, companies, brands, non-profits and various causes and groups. But had a company found a way into Facebook in the early days, and started friend requesting users at random, they’d have come under a lot of attacks and likely lost potential customers rather than gained any. Facebook needed time to evolve, and once it became global and open, companies were able to fold it into their everyday marketing tactics.

So, how do you know when a new social media tool is ready to use and how do you approach it?

1. Wait: Give it time for the initial excitement over the new social app or site to die down. You want to allow time to evaluate if the tool has staying power or if it will simply be a flash in the pan. Lauren Simonds wrote a recent article on Time.com about business growth and social media including information from Steven Strauss. Simonds states every business should start small: “Run a poll on your website and find out where your customers congregate: Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter—or maybe even YouTube. Pick one, and focus on it until you’ve mastered that platform. Then, if your customer base warrants it, you can consider expanding to another platform.”

2. Strategize: Once you’ve decided you want to add the new tool to your social arsenal, build a strategy that outlines how specifically you intend to use the tool, and how it will fit in with your current social media marketing efforts.

3. Listen & Converse: Most social media is centered around large-scale interaction. That means that following key influencers is the first step to becoming an influencer yourself. So before you begin posting or sharing your own content, share the content of others and engage with them. This will lend you legitimacy and allow you to build an audience over time. Once you begin posting for your own business, Strauss recommends using the 80/20 rule to keep information focused on your customers. “Eighty percent of your tweets or posts should be about them,” he says.  The other 20 percent needs to be valuable, shareable content customers will want to spread – Word of mouth marketing!

4. Analyze: According to a post, “Patience is a Virtue – Especially in Social Media” on the blog Your Social Move, “If you don’t slow down and take the time to analyze your previous efforts, you won’t know if you are headed in the right direction or if you need to stop, reassess and go a different way.” Marketing is all about adjusting your tactics to fit your customers needs and interests. Social marketing is the most moveable of all your tactics because it grows overtime. If you don’t analyze the success of your new tool, you won’t know how to get the most out of your efforts. Simonds and Strauss state that “while social media marketing is one of the most affordable ways to build your business, don’t forget to track your efforts and keep tabs on what your get back on your investment—of both money and time… if you’re not getting results—revenues aren’t going up, or worse yet, they’re dropping—it means that you’re not engaging effectively and it’s time to reassess your methods and try a new social approach.”

Want to know how much time and money small businesses are currently spending on social media? Check out our infographic for more details.

Social media marketing shows no signs of slowing down, and with shiny new tools launching all the time, it’s important as marketers to approach each of them critically so you have time to evaluate and then integrate them into your brand. Not every new app or site will fit with your communications, but when you find the one that does, a strategic and patient approach will pay huge dividends in the future.

© 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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Quick & Savvy Competitive Analysis – Where to Start

Tue, 07/02/2013 - 06:00
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What exactly is a competitive analysis? It simply means assessing and having a good handle on who your competitors are, what value they provide, understanding their (and your) strengths and weaknesses, and where your business fits in. Do you really need to do this? Yes! We know you’re strapped for time, but this exercise is worth every minute you’ll spend on it. Competitive analysis is one of the key areas you need to understand in order to succeed.

According to Fleisher & Bensoussan’s, Methods and Techniques for Analyzing Business Competition, “Competitor analysis is an essential component of corporate strategy. It’s argued that most firms don’t conduct this type of analysis systematically enough… As a result, traditional environmental scanning places many firms at risk of dangerous competitive blindspots due to a lack of robust competitor analysis.” Sounds formal, but true. However, thorough competitive analysis is not hard to do.

The priority order/steps to competitive analysis goes something like this:

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  • Define and know your industry
  • Know your customers and potential customers
  • Know specifically what type of customer needs your product or service
  • Know who your competitors are

Wikipedia’s competitor analysis page also suggests adding the following steps:

  • Determine what the key success factors are in your industry
  • Rank the key success factors by giving each one a weighting – The sum of all the weightings must add up to one.
  • Rate each competitor on each of the key success factors
  • Multiply each cell in the matrix by the factor weighting.

Spending time really looking at your competition and where you fit can help you target your marketing efforts, but you need to answer the following questions first to get started. Based on your particular business, you might want to add others:

  • Who are my top competitors? There are likely other companies in your area who provide similar services. Are you continually competing against the same companies for business? These are your biggest competitors and you should focus your efforts here first.
  • How does my product or service stack up to the competition? Take an honest look at their offerings. Is your quality commensurate? Do you have similar offerings? If you have a niche product that your competition doesn’t, can your competitors actually become a source of referrals for you? What is the unique value you provide that competitors don’t or can’t? Emphasize these benefits in your marketing. Remember that these benefits might not be the product itself, but could be something like a longer warranty or free replacement.
  • Is my pricing high or low for the market? If your pricing is too high, you could be losing customers; too low, and you’re leaving revenue on the table. This doesn’t mean you have to price exactly the same as your competitors, it just means you should be able to justify your price based on the value consumers get from it. If your product is 100% organic, or you have stellar customer service, customers may be willing to pay more.
  • Who else am I competing with? Most businesses have a host of indirect competitors as well direct. Start to think more broadly about your business. If you operate a movie theater, you are indirectly competing with anyone who offers entertainment. A house painter might be competing against a landscaper for home improvement dollars. While this seems overwhelming at first, these indirect competitors can be good marketing partners. Can you strike a deal with the house painter to recommend your landscaping company to his clients?

By evaluating yourself against your competition, you’ll likely find new ideas for your business. Want 4 simple ways to monitor your competitors’ marketing strategies? Read our blog post here. How do you keep tabs on your competitors? What have you learned from it regarding your own business? Share away!

© 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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Swag-o-Licious Style Trends

Fri, 06/28/2013 - 06:00
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As the trade show and exhibition organizer at VerticalResponse, I plan at least 30 trade shows a year and attend even more, so I’ve seen my fair share of company swag – You know, those (typically) free promotional goodies. There are a couple swag staples at every show (pens, and the likes), and then there are items that really stand out – Something you certainly want to do in a sea of trade show booths. If you’re in need of some eye-catching goodies to give away, there are a couple things to consider before picking your company’s swag: Will people actually use this item? Will this stand out? Does this item and the quality represent my company well? How much do I want to spend per item? Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to get shopping! Having a mixture of sturdy staples and seasonal or trendy standout items are sure to please.

Here are a couple of giveaways that always seem to be in style:

  • Pens – Granted, pens may not seem like the most exciting of swag giveaways, but have them anyway! People still like/need to collect them at shows and one always need to jot down notes, people’s names, etc. Higher the quality, the better
  • Notepads, Notebooks or Moleskines (with your Logo) – Similarly to pens, people always need to write something down. (These are my personal favorite since I use them at work.)
  • Apparel – T-shirts are always popular, as are hats – Though just about every company at an event seems to be slinging free tees anymore. Make sure your shirts are nice quality, stylish, and comfortable – Shirts with funny slogans, quotes or compelling images also seem to be picked up the most. Consider the following: Would you wear this shirt? If not, neither will your booth visitors! And after the show, if people wear your apparel around, they’re extending the reach of your company name and branding – Win, win.
  • Drink Containers – Acrylic tumblers (some now have water filters), coffee/travel mugs (if they’re light – People don’t like to carry heavy, bulky items around), reusable water bottles
  • Breath Mints or Gum – Who doesn’t need/appreciate these at trade shows, or any time for that matter?
  • Stress Balls
  • Hand Sanitizer and/or Sunscreen
  • Umbrellas (depending on the weather)
  • Reusable totes (to put all your swag in, of course)
  • Drink Koozies
  • Drink Coasters – These come in a variety of different shapes and materials (i.e., leather, paper, and cork.)
  • Bottle Openers – Now in all shapes and sizes!

Here are a few excellent examples from companies who not only don stellar swag, but use it to represent what they do. These are all products that I’ve received from various trade shows (click the thumbnails to see more details).

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Pet Camp – Mini Frisbee and tennis balls for dogs and cats they hope to have as future clients.

OrangeSoda – Stunner shades (sunglasses) and a folding Frisbee make online marketing fun.

Peninsula Beauty – Samples of beauty products they sell in the stores plus a 20% off in-store coupon.

Cloud Extend for SalesForce – A flying monkey with branded cape. One word: Memorable.

The Future of Swag
Staples are great, but what do people really want, and what can we expect to see in the foreseeable future of swag? I asked several brand and promotion marketing experts for swag trends and here are some of the items they suggest. Many of the newest items have to do with mobile devices or technology, but keep in mind, they tend to be on the pricier side:

  • Earbuds or Headphones
  • Eco Friendly Items – These say “I like the environment and you”
  • Computer Mouse – Now in a mini travel version!
  • Screen Cleaners (for a laptop, iPod, mobile phone etc.)
  • Laptop Bags, cases or Backpacks
  • Snack Bars – Like these custom Element Bars we bought for South by Southwest
  • AC Mobile Chargers
  • Photo Booth Photos – These are trending quickly! Companies set up photo booths (with their logo as the backdrop) and provide funny props for passerbys and booth visitors to get dressed up & take instant pics – A big hit.
  • Portable speakers

What are the coolest (or worst!) swag you’ve gotten for your company or from another? 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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Effective Real-Time Social Marketing Marketing

Wed, 06/26/2013 - 06:00
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Have you ever made a social media faux-pas for your business? From a typo, to a snarky comment or an unintentional error. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The problem with making mistakes on social, is that they can be exposed to potentially thousands (or millions in some cases) of followers in a flash, putting your business on a virtual chopping block. So how do you ensure your social posts are relevant, timely, effective, yet still engaging?

Cheryl Metzger wrote an article for Social@Ogilvy, “The 7 Dos and Don’ts of Real-Time #Marketing,” in which she points out very useful rules-of-thumb for effective real-time posts and tweets that make an impact the right way.

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1. Timeliness is key. There’s no use in posting about last year’s scandal or gadget (unless it somehow becomes relevant again). Make sure you talk to people about what’s current now.

2. Don’t interject your post just for the sake of  shameless self-promotion. If it doesn’t make sense to say something, don’t. By that same token, don’t try to force a post when it’s irrelevant. Metzeger advises to “Instead, practice engaged listening. Identify in advance what cues align to your brand—whether thematic, linguistic, or behavioral—then listen intently for these natural openings into the conversation.”

3. Never use tragic events as a platform for your marketing. Here is an example of what not to do (in response to the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings):

4. Know who you’re talking to aka understand who your audience is, and pinpoint your social posts to them. For example, if your target market ranges from the 50-65 year-old range, it’s important you talk about things that matter to them, using words they understand. This will better ensure that your message comes across loud and clear.

5. Keep your Call-to-Action (CTA) in mind with every message you send. This should be the objective and driving force before every post. If your CTA isn’t always clear to you, it won’t be clear to your audience.

6. Focus on being relevant to your needs, not keeping up with other brands or trying to impress the wrong people. Even if your message doesn’t always seem to be “super cool,” if it resonates with your audience, evokes engagement and drives results, then that’s all that matters. Metzger advises, “…focus your real-time marketing on delivering tangible benefits—whether it’s providing creative inspiration, surprising product hacks, free expert guidance, or a tool to help in a crisis. Practical utility delivered in real time provides instant value—the currency necessary to forge 21st-century customer relationships.”

Have any real-time social media marketing tips of your own? Witness any social media dos & don’ts you’d like to share? Let us know!

© 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 Reasons to Lead from the Weeds

Tue, 06/25/2013 - 06:00
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You often hear the phrase, “in the weeds,” in restaurants referring to a server who has fallen behind, but in this post I’m going to use the phrase to mean being involved in the day-to-day details.

As the CEO of VerticalResponse, you might imagine that I spend my days in a corner office, attending board meetings, and generally moving things forward. And you’d be right. But what you might not know is that I love the day-to-day stuff just as much, and more often than not, you’ll find me right there in the weeds with my teams.

You might wonder, how can you lead when you’re busy in all those details, Janine? I’ll tell you…

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1. It Grounds Me

Even though I spend a huge chunk of my day in meetings with my leadership team, you’ll still find me every Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the trenches with my core marketing team working through the challenges and opportunities of the week. We might be looking at the conversion funnel or which keywords result in the most new sign-ups for us. And guess what? I love each and every minute of it. Why? Because the minutia grounds me.

I’ve been a marketer a quarter of my life. It’s what I know and it allows me to focus. And often because of that laser-like focus on the details, it enables me to uncover opportunities like when we discovered that people who signed up for our service and loaded their customer list into our e-mail marketing system were three times more likely to purchase than those who didn’t. That’s just one example of how being “in the weeds” led to an important way to move our company forward.

2. I Stay in the Know

It’s amazing the things I learn or hear just by being present at meetings like the one I mentioned above. It’s mostly managers in this meeting and we go over a myriad of topics. I often hear about projects being sidelined or obstacles they face because of another functional area in the company or process that isn’t working.

Just recently in one of these meetings I found that a new person was having issues getting an answer to something that only people who have been at our company for a few years would have known. I gave the back story about the situation to him and the team he was getting his information from, we documented it and now it’s no longer an obstacle. By having this information, I am able to work with my leadership team to address issues like these and remove obstacles that I might never know about otherwise.

3. I (Still) Think Like a Customer

Even though I’ve been living and breathing this business every day for over 12 years, I still think like a small business owner. And as much as my teams do this too, there are often times that they are so close to what they are doing and know so much about it, that I serve as the SMB voice of reason. For instance, when looking at a new tool we were developing, one of my team members voiced that she would want all the reporting at the very top with the action items underneath. Her reason was simple. She looks at a lot of reporting and would want it straight away. I understood her point, but made the counterpoint, “you’re not a typical small business owner, they don’t think like that.”

I’ll always be driving this business forward and looking for the best opportunities for growth for us and our customers, but you can bet you’ll always find my feet firmly planted in the weeds.

How do you lead and still take on the day-to-day details? I’d love to hear.

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

© 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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Top 5 Videos from Google’s SEO Guru, Matt Cutts

Mon, 06/24/2013 - 06:00
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In the SEO world , there’s no bigger name than Matt Cutts, the Head of Webspam at Google (read: the leader of the SEO world.) Matt wears colorful t-shirts, polos, runs ultra marathons and is a genuinely nice guy. A few times a week he posts a new YouTube video on the Google Webmaster Help YouTube Channel. He has amassed almost 18 hours of video spread over nearly 500 videos. Some of these videos are pretty detailed, technical and way over the average Joe’s head, but most of them offer excellent tips for search engine optimization beginners and small business owners. We’ve scoured the depths of YouTube to bring you 5 of the best of Matt Cutts videos.

5. Is WordPress or Blogger better for SEO? This is the perfect video for most small businesses to start with. When you’re launching your online presence, there are many different services that offer a platform to manage your website/blog. There’s WordPress, Blogger, and Drupal just to name a few. Hint: They all provide a good platform, but we use WordPress!

 

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4. How would a non-optimized site outrank a site that has done search engine optimization? In this video, Matt explains how a non-optimized site can rank better than sites that’ve spent time optimizing. Tip: It isn’t all about meta tags.

 

 

3. Qualities of a good site. When building or reworking your website, this video provides a great checklist of what to do. Hint: Think about the user’s experience.

 

2. What are the top 3-5 search engine optimization areas where webmasters make the most mistakes? Parents always suggest that you learn from your mistakes. What if Matt Cutts was your dad, told you everyone else’s mistakes, and you could just learn from those? Tip: If you’re doing your own SEO work, or hiring a consultant to do it for you, these would be perfect things to AVOID.

 

1. What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO from Google? It’s rare that you get to peek into “The Google Crystal Ball,” but Matt gives you a look into the future with this video. Hint: Watch out spammers!

 

If you want to keep your ear to the SEO ground, follow Matt Cutts on Twitter, his blog and the Google Webmaster Help YouTube account. Be sure to check out The Short Cutts for all of Matt’s videos in one place that’s easy to sort by topic, date and even shirt color.

If you have a favorite video we didn’t feature that helped you out, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you want to see a geeky picture with Matt and I here you go.

© 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 Simple Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Homepage

Fri, 06/21/2013 - 06:00
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So you’ve got a website and things are humming along quite nicely. But did you know you might be making some simple homepage mistakes that could be costing you big time? Losing new customers, sales or subscribers are common consequences. So, let’s explore three mistakes you may be making on your homepage and some simple ways to course-correct and get back on track in a snap.

Data? What Data?

Do you know where your customers are coming from, what parts of your website they find most useful, and how often they’re coming back? If not, it’s time to call in Google Analytics. Your best friend in the world of data about your website. If you’re not currently looking at data by using Google Analytics or another tool, you could be missing out on important information about your website visitors. By understanding where they come from (referrer), what keywords they searched that lead them to your site, what pages and content they viewed while they were there, and how much time they spent; can provide you a wealth of knowledge that you can use to make changes or test particular elements of your site.

Where Am I?

When a visitor arrives at your site, is it immediately clear where they are and what they can do there? If not, you may want to consider a refresh of some of the basic elements of your site that most highly influence conversions, including:

Your Headline: Within 3-5 seconds, a visitor should know, “where am I?” and “what can I do here?” A headline should answer these questions but keep it short and to the point.

Calls-to-Action: Your call-to-action, or what you want a visitor to do when they arrive at your site, should be crystal clear. Don’t make them guess, or they’ll leave. Keep your call-to-action in a prominent place and try to stick with just one or two main calls-to-cation so you don’t confuse visitors with too many choices.

Effective calls-to-action usually begin with an action verb like:

  • Sign up
  • Subscribe
  • Start a Free Trial
  • Donate
  • Buy Now
  • Test it
  • Get the Deal

Navigation: Your navigation should naturally follow the actions you want your website visitors to take, and the information you want them to find and discover on your website. Is your main navigation across the top or down the side? What works best for your audience?

Forms: Do you have a form on your homepage? How long is it, and how many fields are you asking visitors to fill in? Think about collecting only the bare minimum amount of information you need, like an email address, in order to sign up for your mailing list. You can collect other information at a later point. By making your forms short, you remove barriers to people filling them out. If you ask for too much information, too soon, you may end up with a lot of empty forms.

Test? Who’s Got Time to Test?

As a small business, you may be crunched for time and resources, so testing your homepage might be pretty low on your priority list. But you may want to rethink it, because doing a simple test can result in big learnings that can lead to even bigger results for your business

If you’ve never conducted a test, or an A/B test as it’s called in the biz, it’s simply comparing two versions of the same element for an equal amount of time, to check which of the two versions performs better. Follow these simple guidelines to test for success:

  1. Test one element at a time so you don’t muddy your results.
  2. Run your test for a long enough period of time to get enough traffic to your website so your data will be relevant.

If you test too many things at once, you won’t know what’s having an impact and, if only and a handful of visitors see your test, you’ll need to run it long enough to get some statistically relevant data.

To make things easy, there are some user-friendly tools out there to help. Two that we use include Google Content Experiments and Optimizely. With Optimizely, you just enter the URL for your website, then they’ll hold your hand and take you on a “guided tour.”  It’s basically a testing wizard that walks you through the paces – Perfect for both beginners and pros alike.

If you’re making any of these mistakes with your homepage, you’re now armed with the knowledge to make some changes that can immediately impact your business.

Are you making any of these homepage mistakes and what do you plan to change? 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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Rally Employees to Generate PR for Your Business

Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:00
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It’s usually assumed that the CEO or owner of the company is also the public face and spokesperson of the business – and for good reason. After all, no one knows your product, service or industry better than you, right?

Except when it’s not. Sometimes, the press will be working on a story with a specific angle or topic that might be related to your business but beyond your area of expertise. Rather than pass on an otherwise great PR opportunity, why not give one of your superstar employees a chance to be in the media spotlight?

Of course, you shouldn’t just throw any employee out there. It goes without saying that these folks must be able to communicate confidently and succinctly, and (if giving an interview or presentation), need to be comfortable talking in front of other people. Basic media training is strongly recommended, too.

Here are three ways to leverage your employees’ expertise and land some PR coverage for your company:

Guest Writing

Got people on your team who enjoy writing? Give them the opportunity to let those skills shine. Websites and blogs in nearly every industry are itching for original content these days. Your employees will get public recognition for their knowledge, and because they work at your company, your business will benefit from being positioned as a leader. (Not to mention, you’ll get a nice search engine optimization boost if those articles have links to your company’s website!)

Just be sure to review any articles before they get published – at least in the beginning.

Press Interviews

Our CEO, Janine Popick, is a knowledgeable resource on anything related to small biz marketing, leading teams and entrepreneurship. But every so often, we’ll come across a PR opportunity that’s uber explicit. For example, awhile back a journalist wanted to talk to someone at VerticalResponse about recent changes made by a popular email client, and how those changes might affect email delivery to inboxes. While Janine can definitely talk about it at a high level, we also have a great email delivery team who lives and breathes this stuff behind the scenes. I connected the reporter to the head of that team and we landed a great article out of it.

If an employee is being interviewed, try to get some of the questions from the reporter in advance. I do this with all interview requests, whether for our CEO or another team member. It’ll help you understand what exactly the reporter is looking for and the direction he or she is taking. Some journalists won’t agree to this, but many will if you simply ask. Having the questions (and answers) in advance also will do wonders at calming any nerves and helping the interviewee feel more prepared.

Speaking Engagements

You might be surprised at how willing your employees might be to speak at an event or trade show. Again, this is a great opportunity for them to establish their expertise, especially if the subject is something you’re not intimately familiar with. And it’s great public speaking practice.

Here at VerticalResponse, we often send members of our marketing team to speak on panels or give presentations related to marketing.

If it’s a presentation, review it well in advance so you can make sure it’s going in the direction you want and that it isn’t missing anything.

It’s also helpful to provide a “cheat sheet” with two or three key messages that you want your employee to get across during the presentation. Although it’s impossible to expect him or her to repeat them word for word, having these statements in hand will help focus the discussion.

Got any other tips on how employees can help boost your PR efforts? Share them with us below!

© 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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Got Bullies? Here’s How to Deal with Them

Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:00
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There have been some great articles written about office bullies and even a book about it. And every company has one, you probably have one, and you may or may not even know about it. And bullies don’t come in one shape, sex or size; they’re all over the board. At VerticalResponse, we’ve had bullies range from tiny women to burly dudes who’ve waved their bully wands like an iron fist, and trust me, it’s no fun for anyone.

And bullies don’t always bully down the organization, sometimes they have so much power that they can bully you too. Perhaps you think they hold some kind of “key” to your business and if they were gone your company wouldn’t survive. That may be partially true depending on your business, but more often than not you’d be surprised how other people step in and step up to fill shoes you thought were irreplaceable.

What Type of Bully Do You Have?

The Actor

This person isn’t always a bully, perhaps they’re only a bully behind the boss’s back, and when you’re in the room they’re sweet as pie. How do you combat this bully if they’re fake to your face? You need to have relationships with your team at every level so no one is afraid to tell you the cold hard truth. Then you need to confront your bully and tell them you’re very aware of their misbehavior. If it doesn’t get corrected they need to go, as it’s not worth losing great employees.

The Martyr

This bully makes it a point to tell their team to hurry up and do their jobs or else the bully’s job is on the line. These are the same people who will use your name to get what they want instead of having a relationship with colleagues and working together for a common goal. If you see this behavior nip it in the bud, it’s making you look like you’re the tyrant (not them) and more often than not it’s probably not true.

The Wincer

This bully walks the halls with a mean-face, doesn’t smile and says more without words than if they opened their mouths. You need to call this bully out in front of people, cheerfully ask them how their weekend was, and ask them what the issue is that’s making them seem stressed. The more you call them out, maybe the more they’ll turn that frown upside down!

Sybil

When Sybil is happy and not stressed there’s not a bully in sight! Say something they don’t want to hear or deal with? The bully comes out and comes out big time. Stress is part of any job and dealing with it and the people you work with is just a part of it. At VerticalResponse we had a Sybil, we loved Sybil but only when Sybil was happy. We wanted to ask only the bully part of Sybil to leave the company but unfortunately we had to ask the entire person. It was the best choice for all of us and both Sybils!

So make sure your company is as bully-free as possible, you’ll have a happier place to work.

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

© 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.

The post Got Bullies? Here’s How to Deal with Them appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Put a Hashtag on It!

Mon, 06/17/2013 - 06:00

Hashtags, those little yet powerful pound signs (#), are a common way of making a social media marketing campaign more effective. Several social media platforms actively use this small tool, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and even Facebook now has jumped on the hashtag bandwagon. Lisa Kalner Williams recently wrote an article on Business 2 Community, titled, The Art and Science of a Hashtag Campaign, in which she discusses how hashtags are “…not only a great way to spread brand awareness, but they’re easy to search.” The following tips will have you hashtagging successfully in no time:

1. Determine what you want to do with your hashtag campaign:

- Do you want to become more well-known, or is the purpose to share your username (which should remain consistent on hashtag-friendly channels)?
- Do you want to emphasize a specific aspect of your brand/ product?
- Do you want to document an experience?

2. When creating a hashtag for your campaign, keep it simple. The easier it is to remember and write, the more likely people will use it. If it takes up too many characters, it will most likely be excluded from tweets, thereby defeating the purpose. #thisisanexampleofaterriblehashtag

3. Use lowercase letters. Unless your brand or purpose requires capital letters (#YOLO), make it easy for all users to enter your hashtag, #likethis.

4. Make sure your hashtag is available. Using one that’s already taken is like trying to move into an occupied apartment, #awkward. Also, it’s confusing for followers and detrimental to your tracking. Check, double check and triple check. This is a time when social media marketing tools come in handy, and make sure to use them before, during and after your campaign takes place. Make sure to track every aspect of your hashtag, if it already exists, how long it’s been in existence, who has used your hashtag (including social power players), which social channels it’s showing up on more often, and several other features.

5. Spread the word. Williams exclaims, “Encourage use across all your hashtag-friendly platforms. Consider making an investment in Twitter ads that tell new leads about your hashtag-tinged campaign.”

Have any additional hashtag advice of your own? Tell us 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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The Anatomy of a Great Email

Fri, 06/14/2013 - 08:34

Anatomy class in high school was pretty interesting, fun, maybe even a bit gross at times, but it definitely made an impact on everyone who took it. I enjoyed it so much, that I majored in Biology (at least for awhile). While dissecting frogs may not be your cup of tea, dissecting a good email will help you learn the ins and outs of obtaining more opens, clicks and ultimately more business. So let’s bring out the scalpels and get to the heart of the email marketing matter (pun intended)!

From label – This is a key element, as your readers use the it to figure out who sent them the email. The From label is how many people determine if they should open your email or not. Most times, your from label will be your company name as your readers will most often recognize that more than a specific person’s name.

Subject line – Coupled with the from label,  your subject line is the most important part of your email. Once your readers know who has sent the email, the subject line should tell them why they should open and read it. So it’s important you nail your subject line and make it appealing, relevant and attention-getting. Because subject lines are so crucial to your email success, we’ve got a guide to help you out.

Pre-header – Continuing with the biology class analogy, your pre-header is kind of like the pancreas of your email. Most people would be hard-pressed to say why they need a pancreas, or even know where it’s located. Pre-header text is a bit like that, you may not know what it is or where it goes, but once you see how important it is, you’ll wonder how you sent emails without it. Basically it’s the first line of text in your email; some email programs, like Gmail and mobile phones, will pull it into the subject line. That means you want that first line to be something that complements your subject line, to make it even more compelling. We have a short video to help you get started with pre-headers.

Content – Once you’ve convinced your readers to open your email, you need to keep them coming back for more with great content. Try to have a mix of news, how-tos, infographics, industry news, etc. Plus something about your company of course, but don’t make your email all “buy, buy, buy!” or you’ll lose your readers. We had an informative webinar recently all about content which you can check out here.

Links – Creating an anatomically correct email won’t get you results if your readers can’t get to your website to do what you want them to do. Use links! Like veins carrying oxygen rich blood to the body, links carry your readers to where you want them to go and carry out your call-to-action.

Call-to-action – This is the action you want your readers to take when they read your email. Whether you want them to sign up for an event, download a free guide, or buy a product, you’re asking them to do something when they’ve read your email. Make your Call-to-Action (CTA) clear and easy for your readers. Using buttons in addition to text links can make your CTAs stand out in your email and make them easy to click, especially for mobile readers. Try our free button builder to create your own custom buttons.

Images – We live in a visual world and people respond to and are compelled by images. Use images throughout  your email to navigate readers through the content and complement it. Images will break up the text, making your email easier to read and more interesting to look at.

Social Media – Social media is like the heartbeat of your email allowing it to get shared and seen by more people. Use social sharing buttons to enable your readers to share your email on their social networks and expand the reach of your business. Also include buttons for any social media sites your business is on so your readers can connect with your business there.

Unsubscribe/Postal Address – The fact of the matter is there will always be people who decide they no longer want to receive your email. As much as it may pain you to see people go, you need to offer unsubscribe options and follow the rules regarding how they’re handled.  There are laws around unsubscribing, but using an email service provider, like VerticalResponse, will manage it all for you. A postal address is also required in every email you send, as it serves as another way for someone to unsubscribe and helps give your business credibility by showing your readers where you’re located.

There you have it, some sharp tips for creating great emails, no scalpel required.

Which of these tips did you find most helpful? Did we leave any out? 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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Google’s New Enhanced Campaigns for Display Advertising

Wed, 06/12/2013 - 06:00

In a previous post, we discussed changes made to Google AdWords‘ pay-per-click (PPC) Enhanced Campaigns (for Search). These new Enhanced Campaigns are designed to give you more control over bidding and focusing on “context” to help you better target potential customers. Many of these features have also rolled over onto Google’s Display Network with a few subtleties specific to Display advertising (text, images, interactive & video ads). Let’s dive into the new features and differences:

Search vs. Display
Folks who are simply browsing the Internet don’t provide advertisers with as much information as someone who is actively searching for something. When someone does a search, it’s a strong indicator of their intent because they’re actively “seeking out” certain information. In contrast, a person who sees a display ad is generally just browsing the web, but where they’re browsing (specific site or topic) is important because it can also be an indicator of “intent” or “interest.” Because of these differences, Search and Display require some different enhancements. Many of the new Enhanced Campaigns features for Display are similar to Search but we’re going to cover some differences specifically affecting Display. According to Search Engine Watch and Google, most of these differences are around Bid Adjustments and Targeting.

Bid Adjustments

  • With upgraded Display Campaign, you now get bid adjustments, which give you more control over when and where your ads will show. With these enhancements, it’s possible to set different bidding options for mobile devices, locations, and times.
  • Just like bid adjustments in Search, you can now not only make adjustments based on device, but you can adjust between targets, also known as placements. These bid adjustments, or multipliers, allow you to bid higher on certain customers who match certain criteria with the idea that they are more “valuable” to your business. Additionally, you can use bid adjustments and separate targeting for each separate ad group instead of just on a campaign level.

Targeting

  • In addition to multipliers, Display allows for layered targeting options in order to be able to target a specific group of people from a single campaign. You can now set up custom bid adjustments in addition to layering in day-parting, locations, and keywords, to help hone in on specific potential customers hopefully making your display campaigns even more effective and profitable.
  • Not only can you choose to layer these targets, you can also select how those targeting methods should interact with each other without having to worry about hierarchy. According to Search Engine Watch, “If you have keywords that will show your ads on any pages matching those keywords, you can also layer targeted placements.” In conjunction with bid adjustments, the additional control helps you maximize the best combination of targeting methods.
  • Due to the prevalence of rich media and flash ads within Display, it’s harder to create unified device bidding and targeting because of the differences in capabilities of each device. For this reason, you will still be able to target the device model or operating system to limit where your ads are shown.

The Drawbacks
The main issues we’ve seen are over budgeting and control. If you choose to make use of multiple bid adjustments across managed placements, topics, audiences, and other targeting options, you need to make sure to keep an eye on your budget. Because your audience members can fit into more than one target,  your campaign costs could soar and become unprofitable. Something to keep in mind is that a person matching multiple targets isn’t necessarily more likely to convert than a person who only matches one. Additionally, using multiple targeting methods could become complex, making it harder to manage your campaigns.

Conclusion
Many of these new advanced features are similar to what you can expect to see within Paid Search allowing for more control over bidding and targeting. The downsides, of course, are also similar, with some loss of over device control, as well as more aggressive bidding options that can set your costs soaring.

It’s important to keep an eye on budgets and not get too complex with targeting options. With this extra control, Google has taken a step in the right direction to increase effectiveness and relevancy within Display Marketing. For more information, check out Google’s webinar, Enhanced Campaigns Series 205: Google Display Network.

 

Sources:
Search Engine Watch
Search Marketing Standard
Google Adwords Bidding Features

© 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.

The post Google’s New Enhanced Campaigns for Display Advertising appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Is Your Business Going to the Dogs?

Mon, 06/10/2013 - 06:00

In this dog-eat-dog corporate world of deadlines, stress and non-stop meetings, I got to thinking about the effect it has when I bring my pup Dwight (see below) to work. The minute he trots in the door, people light up. They relax, they smile, they play. And Dwight loves every minute of it. Does this mean we should let the dogs out?

An article from CNN cites a recent study that says, “According to a preliminary investigation published in March in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business, employees who bring their dog to the office can cap the amount of stress experienced during the day, and improve job satisfaction for all.” Less stress and increased satisfaction? Seems like a no-brainer, and some pretty successful companies including TRX, ModCloth, Yammer and Google here in San Francisco seem to have found a way to do it by doing the following:

Have a Solid Policy in Place

Google for instance, has a dog policy that outlines a basic set of guidelines including picking up after your furry friend and being respectful of allergic co-workers. And Google is clearly a dog’s world as their code of conduct forbids cats under the notion that because Google is a dog place, any visiting felines would feel less than secure. Your policy should also spell out specifics of any breeds not allowed, as well as damages and personal injury issues. Covering your bases and being respectful to all employees will help ensure a good experience for everyone. Also consider that not all buildings and landlords are pet-friendly which is a bummer, but if yours is, you may want to try it.

A recent Inc. article discussed how the company, One Call Now even goes beyond dogs. The company has several dogs, fish, birds, turtles and other caged animals that hang out with their humans during the workday. The company worked with their HR team to develop a pet policy, “There’s nothing that’s not common sense,” CEO Lieb Lurie, says of the policy. “So if you have common sense, your pet is welcome.” Simple and straightforward.

Take It For a Walk Before You Go Full Force

Take Your Dog to Work Day is just around the corner (June 21st) and it’s a great chance to “test drive” having dogs, or other pets in your office. Pet Sitter International has a great action pack with all the details to keep tails wagging during the event.

My pup, Dwight.

Make Them Part of Your Culture

Modcloth has been one of the fastest growing companies in San Francisco and are known for their mascot Winston, the pug who shows up throughout their site. They’ve incorporated Winston and other pups in their blog and even have a Facebook page called ModDogs which according to their About section is, “meant to showcase our most loved pups and give you a chance to submit your own puppy photos once you join the club!” And judging by the 4,000-plus likes they’ve got on the page, they’re creating some great engagement with their customers and fans! This is a great example of taking a positive thing for your employees and expanding the reach to your customers.

What do you think of having dogs in the workplace? Are you a fan?

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

© 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.

The post Is Your Business Going to the Dogs? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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