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The Best Ways to Promote Your Small Business Event

Thu, 01/16/2014 - 06:00

From ribbon-cuttings to charity auctions, every small business wants to draw a customer-friendly crowd to its event. One undisputed benefit of hosting a live event: reaching your target audience in real-time. That’s why Cathy Mueller, executive director of Mapping Your Future, plans gatherings for soon-to-be college students to educate them about the higher education process.

“We might live in a digital world, but there is no better way to create and maintain customer relationships than a face-to-face meeting,” Mueller says.

The key, Mueller says, is to match your time and energy with your needs. “It takes time and effort to plan the event, so make sure you have the resources to devote to its planning and execution,” she says. “You’ll also want to pick a time that’s appropriate for your customers.”

For example, a new restaurant should schedule a ribbon-cutting around noon to capitalize on the lunch crowd. Once you have the basics figured out, it’s time to send out the invites. Here are a few tips and tactics to spread the word quickly and easily.

Use social media tools designed for events

Of course, social media offers a free and easy way to let your customers know about an upcoming event, but Mueller says small businesses can do more than just mention the date, time and place.

You can create a Facebook event or if you have a paper invitation you’re going to send out through the mail, take a picture of it and post it on Instagram or Pinterest. Twitter-based tools such as TweetMyEvents or TweetVite are also a great way to get the word out, Mueller says. Remember, VerticalResponse has an easy event marketing tool that includes a Facebook widget to help you promote your event.

Don’t ignore traditional media

While many small businesses gravitate towards social media now, you shouldn’t overlook the ‘old school’ newspaper or television station in your town, Mueller says.

“Keep in mind, not all of your customers use social media, so it’s important to utilize several media vehicles,” she says. “A lot of newspapers and television stations still have community calendars that you can include your event on for free.”

You can also send a press release to local journalists who might be interested in covering the event.

Partner with a non-profit

By teaming up with a non-profit, your event will attract new guests while helping the community, a win-win strategy according to Mueller.

“This collaboration provides an opportunity to draw new and existing customers to the event, and it shows your small business is interested in the success of the local community,” she adds.

Pick a charity that fits your business. For example, an athletic store might team up with Special Olympics.

Create a calendar invitation

Once your event details are set, you’ll want to send an email to invite your loyal customers and remind them to attend.

“Utilize your company email list when you’re having an event, but don’t overwhelm your customers with invite after invite,” she says. “It’s okay to remind your customers about the event as the date draws close, but keep it short and simple.”

Mueller suggests sending out a calendar invite, so the event will automatically go into your customer’s daily schedule.

“Anytime you can connect with your customers on a personal level, you win,” Mueller says.

It might not turn into massive sales on the day of the event, Mueller says, but customers will remember the experience and will turn to your company when they need products or services in the future.

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.

© 2014 – 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 The Best Ways to Promote Your Small Business Event appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Easy Ways to Blog in Less Time

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 06:00

Do you want quality content to share on social media sites and better SEO rankings? How about increased traffic to your website? (I’m going to assume you said yes.) Then guess what? You might want to consider blogging. So let’s get down to it and face that road stop in your mind that reads, “I don’t have time.” Oh, you do! Here are 5 tips to get your blog flowing in no time.

1. Write about what you already know.

If you spend your days herding cattle, you probably know more about herding cattle than average Joe browsing the Internet. And, in turn, it would be much easier for you (as a cattle herder) to write about what you do everyday than to do research and write about something entirely different (such as how to dance tango). In fact, the very things that seem routine about your job are likely interesting (and valuable) to the masses looking for more information about it.

2. Interview an expert.

Maybe you need to write a blog about managing a virtual environment and you don’t know the first thing about it. In that case, you’ll need to be creative. If you’re working at a large company, odds are you have access to someone who knows considerably more about the subject than you do. So seek within your environment. Ask for a 15-minute interview with that person and take good notes (Trust me, it’s faster and more interesting then sending them an email!).  If you don’t work for a large company, look within your network. There may be a customer, a partner, a vendor, or even a friend who knows more on the subject that you can interview or learn from.

3. Read other blogs.

All good writing starts with reading. So if it’s coming up with ideas that take you the longest time, take a look at what your peers are writing. By doing so, you’ll learn what’s appealing to the general audience (just look at how many social media shares the posts are getting). Like a good brainstorming session, reading other people’s work will lend itself to new ideas and subject matter to build on. Take a few minutes a day to see what’s out there and jot down a few notes of things you want to write about when you have time. That way you’ll always have a starting point when it’s time to produce. We’ve also got a list of how our content marketing team gets some of their ideas here.

4. Don’t over-think it.

Sit down, put pencil to paper or your fingers to the keyboard and write. Just let the ideas flow without putting too much pressure on the final outcome. Try to block out other distractions and allow yourself to get “in the zone.” Once you have a good chunk of content you can worry about trimming the hedges later. In fact, it’s always a good idea to step away from what you’ve written and come back to it later with fresh eyes for editing or have a second person edit for you.

5. Hold yourself accountable.

This is the hardest part for most people. When you have a business to run, there are many other important things to do before blogging. Well, first be aware of why blogging is important (Here’s a handy infographic by Social Media Today.). Second, create a deadline and share that deadline with another person. It can be a colleague or a coworker who will be editing the blog for you or uploading it to the website. (Let’s face it — If you’re the only person who knows about it, then that deadline doesn’t really exist!).

Do you have your own tips for faster/more efficient blogging? We’d love to hear them.

© 2014, 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 5 Easy Ways to Blog in Less Time appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Simple & Effective Email Marketing Tips for the New Year

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 06:00

We’re a few weeks into a fresh new year and with that comes resolutions to do things better, more efficiently or maybe even keep up the good work you’ve been doing. To give you some inspiration, we’ve got 3 simple and effective tips to make your email marketing work better today and all through the year.

1. Win ‘Em Back

After the ball has dropped and folks get back into their post holiday routines, it’s a great time to send out a win back campaign. A win back is typically used to get folks who purchased or considered purchasing from you in the past, but haven’t in a while to come back and give your product or service another try. But, you need to be thoughtful about how you go after them. Many people may have post holiday shopping burnout or have resolved not to shop or buy for a while in the New Year. It’s up to you to anticipate the kinds of needs they have and appeal to them. For instance many folks resolve to get more organized, lose weight or be more efficient. How can your products or services serve those needs?

Or, if you’re in sales, you can reach out to folks who may have considered using your service in the past, but perhaps chose a different provider. See if their needs are being met, and remind them of any changes, improvements or upgrades that have been made that may influence their decision.

Example of a sales win back campaign

2. Remind Them of Your Value

During the holiday season and just thereafter, many people go on an unsubscribe bender in which they unsubscribe from any email lists they think aren’t providing value. This often happens because people get inundated with so much email during the holidays. In fact, according to Listrak, “Online retailers sent an average of 210 promotional emails during the holiday season, up from 177 sent in 2011, resulting in a 19% increase in email volume.” That’s a lot of email and that’s just a portion of emails that someone receives.

So what can you do to stay in your subscriber’s good graces? Remind them of the value your emails provide. What’s in it for them? Do you offer exclusive content, deals or promotions? Do you send specific content based on their preferences? Remind your subscribers why they signed up in the first place and all the good value you provide.

3. Polish up Your Lists  

To enable to best possible delivery rates and engagement, it’s a good best practice to keep your email lists clean and tidy. We recommend creating some subsets of your list (called segments) so you can create more targeted content based on your subscribers preferences or engagement. For instance, you can create a list of your most engaged subscribers by looking at everyone who opened or clicked your last 4 emails. These folks could make up a segment you call “Engaged.” You can also segment your list based on people who have made a purchase and those who haven’t to better target offers and promotions.

By using these 3 simple tips, your email marketing will be off to a shining start in the New Year and beyond. Have any email marketing tips of your own? We’d love to hear them in the comments.

© 2014, 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 3 Simple & Effective Email Marketing Tips for the New Year appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Easy (and Affordable) Ways to Show Customer Appreciation

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 06:00

Showing customer appreciation is more important than ever, as customers have more ways to browse and shop than ever before. In-store, online, review sites, and friend recommendations all factor into a customer’s buying decision. Customers also have more options to choose from when it comes to purchasing – whether it’s supporting a local business, shopping for the best price, or shopping online for convenience. How do you stand out from the crowd? Show customers you really appreciate their business!

Here are 5 inexpensive tips to show your customers how much you appreciate them without breaking the bank:

1. Send a Handwritten Note 

It may sound old school, but sending a handwritten note is unique in today’s digital world. It can be a thank you note, a birthday card or a postcard informing customers of an upcoming sale. You could also pick an unusual holiday to promote. Did you know that January 27th is “Chocolate Cake Day”? February 20th is “Love Your Pet Day”? Pick one of these unusual holidays and write a note to your special customers. You’ll certainly be remembered.

2. Give Free Stuff

Everyone loves something for nothing. Provide an upgrade for free, a discount on a bill, and all just because, or send them a gift card  encouraging customers to come back to your shop. Other free giveaways could be things that promote your business at the same time. T-shirts, koozies or pens emblazoned with your logo are great and inexpensive giveaways to loyal customers.

3.  Knowledge is Power – Share it!

Communicating with customers and showing your expertise can get you noticed. Whether it’s through an email newsletter, a blog, via Facebook or Twitter, or in person, customers love to learn useful information about what they’re buying. You’re the expert on your product and service, so show it off a bit to provide useful information to educate your customers. Don’t just promote, but really add that extra bit of knowledge that makes customers feel like they’re getting a lot more than just what they purchased.

4.  Profile a Customer

If you have customers who are also running a business, why not include a profile of them in your newsletter or on your website or Facebook page? This not only helps you highlight the profiled customer, but it also shows your other customers how your product or service is helping another business succeed.

5.  Make Them Feel Like a VIP

Make your frequent, loyal customers feel even more special by giving them the VIP treatment. Try hosting an invitation only event. If you have a physical store, provide early VIP-only access to your latest product. Entertain customers with live music or provide complimentary drinks or other treats. If you’re online only, give them access to an exclusive online sale or surprise them with a gift card to a local coffee shop.

Try out some of these tips and start earning more customer loyalty. Looking for specific examples of what other companies have done? Check out our article: Inspiring Customer Appreciation Ideas.

What other ways have you tried to show customer appreciation? Leave a comment and let us know!

© 2014, 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 5 Easy (and Affordable) Ways to Show Customer Appreciation appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New Weekly – Egg and Garmin’s Vivofit [VIDEO]

Sat, 01/11/2014 - 06:00

We’re back with our first episode of “What’s New Weekly” for 2014. In this newest edition, we share the cool new cat companion called Egg and review a cutting-edge fitness tracker from Garmin called vívofit.

 

© 2014, 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 Handle a Crisis on Social Media

Fri, 01/10/2014 - 06:00

At some point, every small business may have to deal with a public relations crisis. Social media has the power to fan the flames of crisis or douse them on the spot, social media strategist Whitney Zatzkin says.

“No matter what the crisis, social media should play a role in your communication strategy,” she says. “When used correctly, social media can offer information to the public and give a positive voice to a company.”

Zatzkin acts as a consultant for small businesses in need of social media assistance, including in times of crisis. Through the years, she’s learned a few social media tactics to handle adversity. Here’s a look at a few universal crisis management tips that Zatzkin says can work for every small business.

Have a plan in place

Long before a disaster strikes, you need to have a plan in place, Zatzkin says. “Remember doing fire drills in school? A crisis communication plan is the same thing,” she says.  ”You need a plan in place to get out of a disaster area safely and you need to practice it.”

You can’t predict what kind of crisis will strike, but if your reputation or brand is damaged, you need to have a plan to handle the fallout and repair the damage, Zatzkin says.

Respond quickly

You can’t remain silent and hope a problem goes away, Zatzkin says. The best public relations move you can make during a PR crisis is to act quickly and responsibly. “The first 24 hours are crucial,” she says. “People expect an immediate response and the longer you wait to take a stance, the worse it looks for your company.”

Domino’s Pizza found that out the hard way. A few years ago, an employee posted a video on YouTube of a fellow coworker violating all kinds of health codes while making pizza. The “Dirty Domino’s” video had a million hits and was picked up by news outlets across the country. The CEO appeared in a video to apologize to customers, but not until 48 hours later, which some analysts said was too late.

Be honest and take responsibility when necessary

If your company is at fault, say so, Zatzkin says. “Everyone makes mistakes and that includes people running small businesses,” she says. “Your customers are capable of forgiveness, if you own up to your mistakes.”

DKNY was praised for its honesty when a photographer called the fashion company out on Facebook for using some of his photos without paying. DKNY took responsibility, explaining that an internal mockup was accidentally used in displays at its Bangkok store. The company made a donation to the YMCA in the photographer’s name.

Don’t argue or delete comments

During a crisis, people will get riled up. It’s inevitable. But if you handle negative comments poorly, you’ll do further damage to your already vulnerable brand, Zatzkin says.

Applebee’s was in the hot seat recently for arguing with customers and blocking people from its Facebook page. The digital scuffle all started when a pastor wrote, “I give God 10 percent, why should you get 18 percent?” on his receipt.  A waitress posted a picture of it on Facebook.

The company fired the waitress for posting a customer’s private information online and issued a statement on its Facebook page.

People were outraged. Instead of keeping calm, the company started arguing with customers, deleting comments and blocking users. A blogger chronicled the whole thing.

“Always stay calm. Don’t fuel the fire, just respond to comments appropriately,” Zatzkin says. In time, a crisis will blow over, Zatzkin says, but your company will be judged by its reactions.

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.

© 2014, 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 How to Handle a Crisis on Social Media appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The 30 Magic Marketing Words You Should Be Using

Thu, 01/09/2014 - 06:00

Savvy business owners, copywriters, and designers know how language influences emotions and persuades action. Certain words and phrases are time-tested to boost response and conversion rates almost across the board. Of course, different motivating words and phrases work better in different situations, and it’s up to you to figure out which work best for your business. It isn’t all that difficult to figure out, though: If your intuition doesn’t tell you, your customers will. Test the following 30 “magic marketing words” in your next email, social media or blog post, on a direct-mail postcard or website to see which yields the best response.

  1. You – Write as though you’re speaking to the customer and about the customer, not about yourself.
  2. Because – Give customers a reason why they need to take action.
  3. Free – “Because” we all like free things, right?
  4. Value – This implies customers are getting something versus losing something (i.e. money when you say “cost” or “price”).
  5. Guaranteed – Give customers a guarantee to minimize risk perception, so they feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
  6. Amazing – Customers will respond to something that is incredible.
  7. Easy – Make it simple for customers to take the next step in the purchasing process, and let them know how much easier life will be with your product or service.
  8. Discover – This implies there is something new and unknown to the customer, something that has supreme benefits and gives them an edge.
  9. Act now – Motivate an immediate response with a limited-time offer.
  10. Everything included/everything you need – This establishes that your product or service is all your customers will have to buy in order to achieve their goal.
  11. Never – Point out a “negative benefit,” such as “never worry again” or “never overpay again.”
  12. New – Your product or service is the cutting edge in your industry.
  13. Save – The most powerful word to showcase monetary savings, or even time savings.
  14. Proven – Remind customers that your product, service or business is tried-and-true.
  15. Safe and effective – “Proven” to minimize risk perception for health and monetary loss.
  16. Powerful – Let customers know that your business, product or service is robust.
  17. Real results/guaranteed results – Your customers want results, after all.
  18. Secret – Not everyone succeeds, and there are secrets to success. Let customers know you can reveal those secrets.
  19. The – This implies your solution is the “end-all-be-all.” Consider the difference: “3 Solutions for Marketing Success”/”The 3 Solutions for Marketing Success.”
  20. Instant –Instant access or downloads are more appealing than waiting.
  21. How to – Start off with a solution so customers read the rest of your copy.
  22. Elite –Your customers are among the best in the world. Invite newbies to join a highly desirable club.
  23. Premium – Premium helps denote high quality.
  24. Caused by – If your marketing literature builds a case for your product, transitional phrases such as “caused by,” “therefore,” and “thus” can help reinforce the logic of a purchase.
  25. More – Do you offer more than your competitors? Let your customers know, because they want the best deal, after all.
  26. Bargain – Because customers want a great deal, remember?
  27. No obligation – Create a win-win situation for your customers.
  28. 100% money-back guarantee – Again, no risk.
  29. Huge – A large discount or outstanding offer is difficult to resist.
  30. Wealth – If you’re selling products and services related to money, wealth is a desirable word for customers.

They key to success is to combine these words into phrases that trigger buying behavior. For example: “Get real results instantly – 100% money-back guarantee – act now!” Keep your copy short and sweet, play on emotional triggers with these words and phrases, and you’ll increase your conversion and response rates.

[Sources: Forbes60 Second MarketerVocus]

This post was contributed by Brian Morris, a writer for PsPrint Blog. PsPrint is an online printing company, providing an array of vibrant full-color products, including business cards, brochures, stickers, holiday cards and postcards, as well as time-saving services such as direct-mailing services.

© 2014 – 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 The 30 Magic Marketing Words You Should Be Using appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The 3 Best Viral Video Campaigns of 2013

Wed, 01/08/2014 - 06:00

Happy New Year! 2014 has begun, but before we dive into a new year, let’s take a look back at the best viral video campaigns of 2013. How can these videos help with your 2014 marketing efforts? Excellent question! The answer is simple. While you don’t have to create viral videos yourself, they’re still excellent pieces of content you can learn from and leverage for your own business. Riding the popularity wave (when and if appropriate) also proves you’re still tuned into the zeitgeist. So let’s take a look at the best viral videos from 2013 and what we can learn from them:

The Harlem Shake: 

In 2012, a song called “Harlem Shake” was released by music producer Baauer. In February of 2013, videos set to the song “Harlem Shake,” began emerging. Each video included “a masked individual dancing alone in a group before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the entire group,” (knowyourmeme.com). According to YouTube’s official trend report, in the second week of February 2013, over 4,000 “Harlem Shake” videos were uploaded to YouTube each day! The videos had a simple setup, yet each one was different and brief, appealing to modern Internet users’ attention spans. A multitude of people (Jimmy Fallon), groups (the Norwegian Army), companies (Google, Facebook), schools etc. joined in on the Harlem Shake video craze. They were performed anywhere from underwater to airplanes, and even space. The videos served as a quick and funny way to contribute to the virality, all while subtly promoting particular companies, sports teams (The Miami Heat have one) or products. We even did one at VerticalResponse, too.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches:

The award for most popular video of 2013 goes to: Dove Real Beauty Sketches. This video has over 61 million views to date on YouTube and even more on hosted sites around the web. According to audience measurement service Visible Measures, the Dove Real Beauty Sketch was the most watched Internet video of 2013. The brilliance of this simple campaign is that it has nothing to do with Dove’s products, but instead focuses on changing the way we see ourselves and by association the way we view Dove as a company. The campaign sets out to prove that we see ourselves differently than others see us, pointing out that we are in fact overly-critical of ourselves – a revelation that makes most of us feel better about our own appearance.

While the Dove Real Beauty video isn’t necessarily a video you can mimic for your product or company, its success proves a valuable lesson. Marketing your company isn’t always about focusing on your products or services directly. Instead, potential users and customers are more likely to look at and be enticed by campaigns that reference your industry and your culture. Consumers are constantly bombarded with ads to buy various products, hence an original video that doesn’t appear to be selling anything other than a concept or message, becomes riveting. Dove succeeds in showing that their company culture isn’t about making you beautiful, but rather, bringing beauty that’s already there to the forefront.

Prankverts:

In 2013, a relatively new style of viral video sprung onto the Internet: “Prankverts” or “Prankvertising.” These videos involve advertising your product by using hidden-cameras and pranking unsuspecting bystanders. It’s a modern version of the 1983 “Folgers Coffee Commercials,” but rather than mildly pranking restaurant goers by changing out their coffee, these Prankverts aimed to shock unwitting participants and entertain online ones. Prankverts appeal to a wide audience and can be used in almost any setting and for any product. Take a look at this one from Mundo LG titled, “Ultra Reality: LG Meteor Prank.”

One of the most popular examples comes from Pepsi MAX and their “Jeff Gordon Test Drive” video. In the video, professional stock car racing driver, Jeff Gordon (in disguise) takes an unsuspecting car salesman on the scariest ride of his life and records the ‘experience’ via a hidden camera inside a Pepsi Can. The video, which received over 40 million views, appeals to everyone who has ever wanted to test drive a sports car and just let ‘er rip. While this isn’t about getting us to purchase Pepsi, the company knows the success of the viral video will bring users to their online websites and pages.

My personal favorite Prakvert of the last year was the viral marketing video created for the October 2013 release of the film, Carrie. The video, titled “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” set up a prank in a coffee shop with several actors and lots of stunts to scare customers into thinking that something supernatural was occurring in the middle of their ordinary day. The video ends with the smallest amount of footage from the upcoming film, the title and the release date. Rather than simply trying to hook viewers with a standard film trailer, the marketers took Carrie out of the world of fiction and placed her in an actual coffee shop. Though we know it’s not real, the reactions of the customers are real.

The lesson to take away from these creative ads is the appeal and success of using the suspense, surprise or shock factor. Though we don’t necessarily condone you to prank or scare away potential customers, you can test the surprise factor in your email subject lines, blog posts and social marketing campaigns. The company/website Upworthy does an excellent job of hooking readers in with their suspenseful headlines, particularly on Facebook.

Learning from and leveraging viral videos is a fun and creative way to move the focus of your marketing from simply trying to sell products to building a brand image and exposing a fun company culture. In the end, the main goal of these viral marketing techniques should be to bring a brief bit of enjoyment to your audience.

Have any favorite viral videos of your own? Did you leverage any for your own business? Share with us!

© 2014, 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 The 3 Best Viral Video Campaigns of 2013 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

More Accurate Updates to Google Webmaster Tools

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 16:48

Are you tired of being tripped up by the Google SEO dance? Us too. Nothing’s worse than watching your rankings drop and you’re left without the slightest clue as to why. Well, you’re in luck because Google Webmaster Tools just released a great new update that provides more detailed information about search queries. This information is happily accepted by eager SEO and web masters who have had their keyword data taken away from them in Google Analytics. Here’s the short, but valuable, list of changes/updates within Google Webmaster Tools.

What’s Changed:

More Detailed Impressions Data

Google used to round out data, then display it. For example, you might have had 14,587 impressions, but you’d see 14k. Google’s John Mueller said, “The search queries feature gives insights into the searches that have at least one page from your website shown in the search results. It collects these ‘impressions’ together with the times when users visited your site – the ‘clicks’ – and displays these for the last 90 days.”

Here’s a before and after shot from Google:

Before:

 

After:

Update Notifications:

We also noticed that Google is now showing some of their updates overlaid with traffic data. This makes is easier to if a drop in traffic is a result of an algorithm. Don’t forget that a few months ago, Google added the “Manual Actions” area, so you can tell if you’ve been hit by a penalty.

 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your Google Webmaster Tools account set up! Track all your data, keywords and stay on top of penalties, all in one place.

© 2014, 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 More Accurate Updates to Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Market Your Crowdfunded Product Launch

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 06:00

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have risen so much in popularity that even established businesses and entrepreneurs see them as legitimate ways to launch products, services or campaigns. Witness the recent launch of the Pebble smartwatch, a project that raised over $10 million by close to 70,000 people, providing not just funding for a new product, but a huge buzz-building PR boost and instant community of fans who have “invested” in the product.

With popularity comes competition, though: getting a crowdfunded product or service noticed on these sites is becoming more difficult and savvy marketing of your project is now essential. Pebble community manager Joseph Kristoffer shares some tips from their launch that can help you position your crowdfunding marketing campaign for success.

Be clear, concise and state the value of your product

“[Pebble founder] Eric [Migicovsky] was very good and very specific in concisely and very directly outlining very specific use cases for our project, the pain point we were solving and the benefits we were bringing to the table,” Kristoffer explains.

The best crowdfunded projects are those where the product solves a specific problem that a particular group has.“Pebble was very much the watch that we wanted to have ourselves, so it was easy for us to speak concisely, directly and honestly about the benefits and what we thought was going to be cool about our project,” he adds.

Make a crisp, short video

“It’s important to have a really great video that is brief and to the point,” Kristoffer says. In fact, he recommends the product or service be explained within the first 30 to 60 seconds of the video. Although it’s tempting to expand or get creative, it can be self-defeating. “I’ve seen a few crowdfunding videos that get a little too heavy on being funny or entertaining, and I sit there and realize it’s already been a minute and a half and I don’t even know what the project is for yet,” he says. Attention spans are at a premium on Kickstarter and others, so getting to the point quickly is crucial.

The rewards being offered to backers should be clear and concise as well, so people know exactly what they’re getting if they support the project at different funding levels.

Build buzz ahead of time

Crowdfunding shouldn’t be used to validate a business idea, Kristoffer says. It’s best to have a soft launch, first. Create a beta list of people who have shown interest in the project, so that when launch day comes, you can contact people who have made soft commitments to see if they’d be interested in supporting the project.

Drum up good press

Pebble’s Kickstarter launch received massive media exposure, and that wasn’t a coincidence. “What we did before launching was reach out to press outlets we read ourselves that we thought were a good fit, and we also reached out to writers at those outlets who’d been writing about things similar to our projects,” Kristoffer said.

“It’s important to reach out to press in a way that shows you’ve read what they’ve been writing about and that you can concisely—in an email that fits into someone’s preview window—show that you’ve read some of the things they’ve written before, how your project connects with some of what they’ve been writing about, why your own project is cool and why it should be written about,” Krisotffer says. Again, being concise is key. “Every single thing you say in that message to press should be free of fluff. Just get to the point, [explaining] how it fits in with the person you’re pitching and what they’ve been writing about and what it is you bring to the table,” he says.

Another key aspect of media relations is keeping track of any coverage you do get. This could be as simple as creating a spreadsheet of headlines, dates, authors and contact information. Although Pebble didn’t have a full-scale PR team, they were cognizant of being organized in relationship management and being able to pull a contact from a list when necessary.

Pick a platform—or make your own

Kickstarter and Indiegogo aren’t the only game in town. A dizzying array of crowdfunding options is available, and each platform has its own unique benefits.

How to choose? “Look at projects that you would’ve supported yourself that are similar, and try to get in similar platforms,” Kristoffer recommends. Crowdtilt is a good option for nonprofit organizations, or anyone who wants to pool together even small amounts of money for a project or event.

“There’s also some really great platforms now that are roll-your-own platforms,” Kristoffer explains. And if none of them fit the bill, there’s the do-it-yourself approach as well. “Look at Lockitron. They were actually rejected from Kickstarter, so instead of throwing in the towel they built their own self-hosted roll-your-own crowdfunding campaign tool called Selfstarter.” The platform is online and open source though it does require some coding to process payments. Lockitron has raised $2,278,891 through the platform.

Let your passion shine

Beyond the strategies and tips that have worked for Pebble and other successful crowdfunding marketing campaigns, Kristoffer thinks having a passion for the project is crucial. “In the successful projects I’ve seen, the project leaders have done something that they wanted for themselves; either they solved a problem for themselves, or [worked on something that] was important for them. “

If you’re just looking for money but aren’t invested in the project yourself on a deep level, core level, close to your own heart, you’re going to have a much harder time,” he adds.

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

© 2014, 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 How to Market Your Crowdfunded Product Launch appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Tips to Get Your Video Marketing Efforts off the Ground in 2014

Mon, 01/06/2014 - 06:00

We’ve been hearing about the benefits of integrating video into your marketing mix for a while now. However, unfortunately only a small percentage of companies, especially small businesses, are taking advantage of this powerful marketing tool. Most people psych themselves out on the difficulties of creating video content. But it’s easier than it appears.

With the 5 tips below you can focus on the important factors that will get your video production headed in the right direction this year.

1. Provide Valuable Content

Valuable content can come in many shapes and sizes. Some companies focus on their products or services in a very theatrical way. One of the best examples of this type of approach comes from Apple with the introduction of the iPad Air.

Other companies bring humor to the mix while still showing off the benefits of their product. One of my favorite examples of this tactic comes from the good folks at Blendtec.

Another content approach is to focus on factors that could benefit your clients. At VerticalResponse, we’ve done this with our Facebook Friday video series that shares the ins and outs of the world’s largest social network. The content doesn’t deal directly with our product, but it provides value to the customers that use our products.

2. Be Consistent

This is where most people stumble. You have the best intentions to produce engaging video content, but after a couple of weeks those intentions may make their way to the back burner and never leave. I’ve been down this road before with different video projects I’ve developed over the years. I’ll do 6 or 7 videos, then other duties distract me and all that effort is wasted.

Consistency is key to any marketing effort, but especially when it comes to video. Not only are you up against other video content but you’re also competing with all the other material that makes up the Internet. One of the most important ways to rise above the content noise is to stay consistent. At VerticalResponse, we’ve learned that with our blog, and our video efforts are no different.

We’ve been producing our What’s New Weekly video series since May of 2013. Has it been challenging to keep it going? Of course it has, but 8 months later we’re seeing the fruits of our labor. Our video views are up, we’ve increased the subscribers of our YouTube channel and the comments for our individual videos are on the rise. The key is to keep going and you’ll see results over time. Make sure you read the complete guide to using YouTube for your business as well!

3. Sound

Even though people are watching your video, the most important aspect is what they hear. A lot of people spend so much time and effort with the visual side of the video, they forget people are listening too. Bad sound in your video is the quickest way to get people to click away. Spend a little money on a decent microphone and make sure your video can be clearly heard, as well as seen.

4. Don’t Get Caught up in Perfection

Paralysis by analysis comes to mind with this tip. Sometimes we get so caught up in analyzing our product, we never get it out the door for people to consume. We’re not advocating you put out poor quality content, or that you don’t fix glaring mistakes, but we are saying you don’t need to be Steven Spielberg when it comes to producing videos.

Almost all of our videos are done in one take. There are some flubs or hiccups in the final product, but that’s what makes it real – Humans being human. It’s makes us more relatable and connects us with our audience because we’re not over-produced robots. It also proves that creating a video doesn’t have to be a major time investment.

5. Have Fun

This tip is left for last because it’s the most important. You have to enjoy what you’re doing in anything, and producing video content isn’t any different. If you’re not having fun, it’s easy for people to pick up on it and can have a negative impact on your final product. If you’ve ever watched any of our What’s New Weekly or Facebook Friday videos, you can see we really enjoy what we’re doing and that allows our audience to enjoy it, too.

So there you have it… 5 tips that can get your video marketing efforts headed in the right direction in 2014. Have any tips to add to our list? Leave a comment and share.

© 2014, 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 5 Tips to Get Your Video Marketing Efforts off the Ground in 2014 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Busted: The Worst Email Subject Lines, Ever!

Fri, 01/03/2014 - 06:00

Successful email subject lines are eye-catching, attention-grabbing and tempting. But there are also annoying, boring, careless, lazy, desperate, or worst of all, deceiving subject lines that give all other hardworking subject lines a bad rap. The purpose of writing an enticing subject line in your email marketing efforts is to achieve an open (which could eventually lead to a sale), but there are good and bad ways to go about gaining it. Let’s bust the worst subject lines ever and kick their bad habits to the curb:

  • THE ALL CAPS SCREAMER – It’s tempting to write a word (or worse, many) in all caps to emphasize importance, however, it also comes off as if you’re SCREAMING! And, that’s the last thing you want to do to a current or potential customer. To highlight something, consider using (one) exclamation point or words/phrases like “New, Last Day, Don’t Miss Out,” to create a sense of urgency or excitement. Your copywriting skills should display the importance you want to relay, not caps lock.  The same goes for wAckY CApS – Don’t go CRazAY.
  • The From Label Repeater – This is a minor subject line infraction, but the “from label” of your email should usually be your company name or the name of the person a subscriber has the relationship with, so there’s no need to repeat your company name in your subject line. Repetition is not only redundant and obvious, but it takes up precious space suited for your delightful subject line.
  • Zzzz… The Generic Snore i.e. “[Your Company Name Here] Weekly Newsletter” – Telling your recipients what they can expect from your email will go the distance. Your email subscribers already have loaded inboxes, so give ‘em the goods right away and tell them what’s inside. Generic subject lines like, “Weekly Newsletter,” “Monthly Wrap up,” “Daily News,” aren’t enticing or descriptive and they’re a snore. When sending an email newsletter, highlight your two most interesting topics in the subject line and your third in the pre-header.
  • The Deceiving Sneakster i.e. “Get 75% off the whole store… just kidding!” – Deceiving anyone doesn’t bode well in the long run, ever. Plus, when it comes to your subject line, lying or including misleading information is actually illegal! Yup, you read that correctly. Meet: CAN-SPAM – An act that states an email’s subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message. If people are subscribed to your emails, legally, they want to hear what you have to say, so give it to them straight.
  • The Symbol FanaticSymbols such as hearts and happy faces are fun, eye-catching, and pretty darn cute, but use too many, too often and they go from cute to “cut it out!” quickly. Symbols garner engagement, but make sure they’re appropriate for your content and audience, and only use one, occasionally.
  • The Desperate Crier i.e. “Open Me!” – Desperation’s rough enough, but begging for an open is hitting rock bottom and won’t give you the engagement you desire. Put on your copywriting hat and come up with something clever, we know you’ve got it in you.
  • The Grammar/Spelling Mistake Sore Eye – Everyone makes mistakes, so everyone also deserves a “Get out of jail free” card when it comes to a grammar or spelling mistake, but it shouldn’t become a common occurrence. Make sure to use spell check, have at least one other person proof your subject line (and the rest of your email), and when in doubt, refer to some of our favorites: The AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, Dictionary.com and Grammar Girl.
  • The Novel – Don’t give everything away in your subject line, that’s your email’s purpose. To find out what your audience really likes subject line-wise, you have to test it, however, the majority of the time, less is more. Keeping the subject line short and to the point will entice your recipient to open and to read on.
  • The Premature Sender i.e. “test.” – Whoops, did someone accidentally hit “send” without a proper subject line? It happens, and when it does, people love to point it out! Doh. Always give your email a proper subject line right from the get-go. Going in, you may have an idea what your email is going to be about, so give that subject line a shot and change later if necessary.
  • The Copy Cat (sending multiple emails w/the same subject line) – If you’re sending a series of emails, say a promotion over a course of three weeks, don’t be tempted to use the same subject line over again. This will cause people’s eyes to glaze over, or worse, they’ll delete the email thinking you either 1) sent it to them twice, or 2) they already read that email; delete! Rework your original subject line with a slightly different spin.
  •  The Pre-header Repeater – Repeating your subject line in the pre-header qualifies as the worst pre-header, ever. A pre-header acts like a secondary subject line and is your second chance at grabbing a potential reader’s attention. Take advantage and tell ‘em what other wonderful things they can read inside. Subject line feels too long? Cut it in half and put the rest in your pre-header.
  •  The One Word Spam Alert i.e. “Hi” – If you’re trying to catch a recipient’s attention by being mysterious, do so by asking a question:  “…they generate 92% higher comment rates than non-question posts,” on social media according to Buddy Media. Try it in your subject lines, too. Including just one word in your subject line screams “spam alert!”
  • The Punctuation Abuser!!!! – Like all caps, punctuation shouldn’t be abused. Use more than one punctuation mark and it also seems as if you’re screaming (!!!), you don’t remember proper punctuation rules, or you must think everything is important. One exclamation point or question mark serves its purpose.
  • The False Alarm i.e.”URGENT!” – As our Public Relations Manager, Connie eloquently put, “Unless you’re only sending to one person, it’s not ‘exclusive.’ Same goes for “breakthrough,” “pioneering,” “revolutionary” and all those other fluffy adjectives…” Granted, she’s speaking about press releases, but the same goes for your subject lines. If something isn’t really “urgent” or “breaking news,” exaggerating could let readers down. Plus, many people don’t open their email until days after it’s been received, so the sense of urgency may be lost.
  • The Fake Reply –Including Re: in your subject line indicating that it’s a reply is sneaky. “Oh look, someone’s replied to an email I sent them! But wait, I don’t know who this is? What’s this all about?” Sure, you’ll get opens, but the key is to engage and connect with your readers. This tactic will likely get your message deleted. If you really want to entice readers, try asking a question.

Have any other email subject lines you’d like to add to the list? Let’s bust ‘em!

© 2014, 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 Busted: The Worst Email Subject Lines, Ever! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Survive the Winter Marketing Slump

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 06:00

It’s not easy generating momentum and attention for your small business after the holidays: the sales are over, your customers are digging through overstuffed inboxes and seasonal messages and offers don’t really apply as well to January as they do to holiday shoppers or vacation seekers.

How do you keep your marketing efforts chugging along during the long and often slow months of winter? Start by looking at your marketing efforts through the eyes of your customers so you can address their ongoing needs, says business consultant Charlie Gilkey, author of “The Small Business Lifecycle: A Guide for Taking the Right Steps at the Right Time to Grow Your Small Business.”

You can also use the downtime to assess your work, plan for the year ahead and tackle more involved marketing campaigns your customers will really enjoy.

Timing is key

A big part of winning the post-holiday marketing battle is good timing, and that means really getting to know your what your customers are doing, and what they need, as they go through the post-holiday season. For example, if you market to customers who have just finished budgeting for the year ahead, you won’t want to spend as much time pitching them on big-ticket services so soon after New Year’s.

If you’re still learning your clients’ rhythms, you can look at which messages you have sent that didn’t get the results you expected and extrapolate.

“The main thing is understanding what your people are going through and what’s the conversation in their head—what they’re thinking about, what they’re doing,” Gilkey says. Few people get tired of content or offers that address their immediate challenges and goals.

Just as people are receptive to gift guides around the holidays, they may be receptive to other types of content afterwards, such a calendars, planners or winter-themed content.

Giving your services or products seasonal themes is a great option for some businesses, but harder for others, Gilkey says. An obvious example that some, but not all, small businesses can copy: chocolatiers sell Christmas candy, followed by Valentine’s candy and then Easter eggs.

Stay motivated with your marketing

Having some downtime can also be beneficial to your business overall.

“If your audience is laying low, you can talk about ways to stay motivated while you’re not active, or what to do during the post-holiday slump,” Gilkey says. Tap into your knowledge of the issues they’re going through to provide relevant suggestions that will help them at this time.

The slower months are an opportunity to shift from a focus on campaigns or upcoming events to longer-lived and more thoughtful content and messaging. A book retailer might create reading lists for customers. The fitness industry typically markets in January when people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions and working off the holiday pounds. But just because you don’t run a gym doesn’t mean you can’t be part of that customer conversation, says Gilkey. “They’ve got that energy [to exercise], so that’s the perfect time to join that conversation and tailor your marketing message so it actually engages and meets them where they are.”

Start planning ahead for the marketing slump by assessing which of your campaigns went well and which didn’t, and focusing on planning your content for the year to come.

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

© 2014 – 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 How to Survive the Winter Marketing Slump appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2014

Wed, 01/01/2014 - 06:00

This year social media will do more than introduce the masses to a royal baby and the peculiar dance moves of Miley Cyrus. In 2014, social media will continue to be a necessity for small business marketing, not just a fad that will fade away.

That’s just one of the predictions Sharon Geltner, a marketing teacher and small business counselor at Palm Beach State College, has for the new year.

Geltner’s predictions are based on her marketing prowess and her conversations with new business owners. As a counselor, she helps small businesses get started, which includes marketing advice.

“The small businesses I work with know that social media has a lot of marketing potential,” she says. “I think in 2014 we’ll see new social media tools revealed and smarter strategies from small business owners.”

Here are a few other predictions Geltner has for 2014:

1. LinkedIn will become the go-to social media site

LinkedIn is making big strides to earn your attention, Geltner says. The site, known among Geltner’s clients as “Facebook for grownups,” has attracted a lot of new users with business-centered features like endorsement tools and the ability to join groups.

“LinkedIn will become a social media powerhouse in 2014,” she says. “More business owners are realizing the treasure trove of information that potential clients list on profiles.”

Geltner expects business owners to search LinkedIn for potential clients and use the information offered online to do research before cold calling a prospective customer.

2. YouTube channels will grow

Geltner predicts more businesses will turn to video to spice up marketing campaigns in 2014. With YouTube channels growing in popularity and video equipment becoming cheap and easy to use, Geltner says more emails and social media posts will contain videos rather than lengthy paragraphs.

“People click on videos,” Geltner says. “If your business can pack information into an informative and engaging video, it could be more effective than writing the same content.”

If Geltner doesn’t convince you of YouTube’s power, statistics will.  Every second that goes by, an hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. Retailers are flocking to the video hub as a way to boost online sales. For example, online retail store, Zappos, says 250,000 visitors were driven to its website by YouTube in 2012.

3. Twitter’s popularity will fall (with SMBs)

Geltner says the small business owners that she interacts with aren’t embracing Twitter quite as much as we’re led to believe. She’s not convinced that this platform will become a vital tool in the marketing toolbox.

“I really think Twitter has a 50/50 shot of making it in the small business world,” she says. “I know I’m probably in the minority with this line of thinking, but Twitter seems to be an afterthought for many businesses. We’ll see how it goes.”

Geltner isn’t the only one who thinks the 140-charcter site is a bit overrated when it comes to marketing. According to statistics from Peer Research, Americans aren’t in love with Twitter. In fact, the U.S. ranks eighth in Twitter engagement across the world, behind countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

4. Small businesses will get selective about social media

Every small business struggles to balance time, money and resources. While many small businesses gravitate towards all social media platforms because of their free marketing potential, Geltner expects businesses to be more efficient and selective in 2014.

“The novelty of social media is starting to wear off,” she says. “Business owners don’t need a presence on every social media site that exists.”

She believes small businesses will focus on one or two platforms rather than offer a meager presence on every site. A shift towards quality over quantity is also expected.

“Small businesses have enough experience with social media to realize that they don’t have to post every 30 minutes, but when they do, the content should be worthwhile to readers,” she says.

While Geltner says social media tools are an affordable way for small businesses to generate leads and promote a brand, she reminds owners not to forget about traditional media. Geltner says social media isn’t a silver bullet and advises every small business to combine its social media marketing with traditional marketing tools like email marketing to have the most successful year.

Have any predictions of your own? Share with us 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.

© 2014 – 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 4 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2014 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Use Twitter’s New Timelines

Tue, 12/31/2013 - 06:00

If there’s a new social media trend out there, you can bet Bridget Willard is in front of her screen checking it out. Willard is all over Twitter’s newest feature, the custom timeline.

Willard turned to social media when the economy crumbled as a way to generate new customers for her employer, Riggins Construction, and is now the go-to social media whiz for the 36-year-old company, which does commercial construction in Orange County, California. She’s using Twitter’s new timelines to attract new customers and engage with current ones.

Twitter’s new timeline feature gives users more control over how their tweets are organized and offers some creative alternatives to simply posting to your feed and watching your tweets quickly disappear into the swirling current of handles and hashtags.

Twitter users can create, title and describe a custom timeline. Each timeline gets its own Twitter page and can also be embedded on your website or blog. For example, if you want to create a separate timeline that focuses on one specific subject or newsworthy event, you can. Think of it more like a Pinterest board; it’s a place to group pieces of information that’s more visual than hashtagging.

“The best thing about the Twitter timeline is that it increases the lifespan of your tweet,” Willard says. “Right now, a tweet has a shorter lifespan than a housefly. In a separate timeline your tweet won’t get buried nearly as fast.”

If you want to dabble with this new feature, start by checking out Twitter’s instructions and then experiment with Willard’s ideas below to get the most out of the new timelines.

Idea #1: Highlight positive feedback

One way to use the Twitter custom timeline for your business: create a “kudos timeline.” Every time you get a shout out or a compliment on your product or service, highlight the customer feedback on a separate timeline.

“Customer feedback is a powerful thing,” Willard says. “When you get some positive tweets, you want to keep those around for a while. If you leave them in your Twitter feed, they’ll get buried. Create a separate timeline for them instead.”

Every time a new positive tweet comes in, just move it to your “kudos timeline.” Think of this customizable timeline as your mantelpiece. It’s where you display your Twitter trophies.

Idea #2: Create timelines for specific topics

The new timeline feature makes tracking topics or subjects easier. Group conversations on Twitter—commonly referred to as tweet chats—typically rely on the group’s use of a hashtag, which can make following the thread challenging and not all that visual. Now users can all post to one timeline, which makes the conversation easier to follow than sifting through streams of hashtag-riddled tweets, Willard says.

“All the tweets are in one place,” she says. “It’s a great organizational tool.”

For example, Willard created a timeline at Riggins that focuses on social media tips for small businesses.

Idea #3: Embed a timeline on your website

Twitter makes it easy to embed timelines on your website or blog, Willard says. To do so, you must sign into your account and go to settings, then widgets. Click the “create new” tab in the corner and fill out the descriptions needed for the timeline. Once you’ve finished the form, it will create an embed code you’ll need to include in your website post.

The Guardian used this feature. The newspaper created a Q&A timeline that allowed readers to ask reporters questions about the information given to the newspaper by former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden. The timeline was embedded in an article.

Why embed? Businesses might not have hot topics like NSA secrets to tweet about but, Willard says, any embedded timelines could attract followers to your Twitter account better than a “Follow us” button.

“Someone who looks at your website may not follow you on Twitter,” she says. “If you embed a timeline, you could get more followers and maybe even more customers.”

While the Twitter timeline is still a new feature and will likely, Willard expects the tool to catch on as more people learn about it.

Have you explored any of these ideas with the new Twitter timelines? Tell us about it!

Featured image courtesy of Twitter.

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.

The post How to Use Twitter’s New Timelines appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Getting Your Company’s Voice Right

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 06:00

You’ve worked up a content strategy, applied it across your marketing channels and delved into your reporting, ready to expand on what works. But what voice do you speak to customers with and how do you know if your company’s voice is striking the right tone?

Even if you long to be playful, sarcastic or hip—like the publications and blogs you follow online—pulling that off in a corporate environment, with a range of collaborator talent and marketing goals, can be very challenging. How do you know when you’re being too casual, or when you’re being too stodgy? Marketing expert and consultant Noah Fleming, who has worked on customer retention strategies for small-to-medium sized businesses, large companies and entrepreneurs, has some easy tips for finding your company’s voice and letting it shine through in your content.

Know your company’s character

“Every company has a character,” Fleming points out. “If you were to think about your company as a person, what would they be like? Would they be fun and exciting or would they be mellow?”

Just as you’d find it jarring if your favorite TV character suddenly acted in a way that didn’t make sense, your company voice and personality should be consistent. Make sure that every person taking part in content creation or social media marketing understands what the company is about and what it stands for, as well as how you want to be perceived by people. It’s fine for contributors to take a slightly different approach but the overall tone and feel should fit that same voice, so that your content is always characteristic of your brand.

Be more human

“Everyone always says that people need to be authentic, but the problem is that nobody says what that means,” Fleming explains. “I think what it means is that you enter into a real and legitimate dialogue with somebody in the way you speak to them.” That means that your writing and speech should be conversational. This allows you to communicate with people in a way they can understand, as if you were having a discussion with them face-to-face.

If you regularly interact with clients one-on-one either at events or even via phone or email, it can become a bit easier to determine how they’d react to certain types of information or language, and whether material would be too difficult or too easy for them to understand. As your business grows, making sure that people who have client-facing roles express that information to those creating content is key. This helps bridge the gap between those creating content for clients and those who regularly interact with them.

Build trust by giving it straight

It can be tempting to make things sound more sophisticated than they really are, but the key is to speak to people in a way that makes it easier for them to understand what you’re saying. This creates trust.

“I trust people when I can understand them, as opposed to someone who always seems like they’re trying to talk over me. When someone’s always trying to speak above me, it doesn’t create that feeling of trust,” Fleming points out.

This doesn’t mean that content must be dumbed down, or that you can’t address the pressing needs of your readers who want to delve beneath the surface or approach problems from a more sophisticated angle. It just means that you want to create content that can serve the needs of readers at various levels of experience and skill, so that they can all benefit from the information you are providing.

How casual is too casual?

It can be tempting to get very casual with your content, especially if you see your colleagues doing the same. However, it’s important to consider the needs of your audience first.

“It’s not a matter of casual just for the heck of it,” Fleming says. “It’s speaking in a way that resonates with your audience.”

The words you use can be entirely different depending on who you are speaking to, even if your company has different content for different demographics.

“A group of brain surgeons can speak conversationally, in simplistic ways to their audience, but they’re not going to be overly casual,” Fleming explains. “Think of it like a cocktail party. What kind of cocktail party discussion would you have with your ideal customer outside of work?” It may be casual, but not overly casual, or it may be a little more formal, depending on who is attending. The key, Fleming says, is learning how to resonate with your ideal customer.

Seek feedback

The best way to know whether your tone and voice is resonating with your clients and prospects is to see how they respond to the information. Are they asking questions about posts that you thought were self-explanatory? This can help you see whether or not you are on the right track.

Using qualitative feedback and other metrics to track audience response can be helpful. Specifically, look for social media shares and comments, blog comments and dialogue around your content to see whether or not your users are responding to your voice.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.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 Getting Your Company’s Voice Right appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The Best Marketing Blog Posts of 2013

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 06:00

The end of year is a time for reflection, especially when it comes to your marketing tactics and campaigns. What worked well for you this year? What new things do you hope to pick up, or focus on more intently? If there’s one thing that’s certain about successful marketing strategies this year, it’s that content marketing, blogging in particular, rocked 2013! Blogging is more important than ever, and this “2013 Blogconomy” infographic via ignitespot makes it very clear why:

  • Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social media.
  • 82% of consumers enjoy reading relevant content from brands.
  • In 2013, small businesses with blogs generated 126% more leads.

At VerticalResponse, we would also like to reflect upon our own blogging efforts this year: In 2013, we produced more than 500 blog posts of original content. The topics ranged from social media, SEO, content and email marketing to website development and more. All that writing paid off, as we also won a Gold Stevie Award for best blog content/writing at the 2013 International Business Awards. We work hard to ensure we’re providing relevant, educational and interesting content for our readers every day. With that, here are the best VR Marketing blog posts of 2013 that you, our readers, loved the most.

Copywriting/Content Marketing/Blogging Email Marketing Marketing Social Media SEO/SEM Tools: Website Development

While you’re at it, check out 2012′s 20 hottest blog posts for kicks, too. Have a favorite blog post of your own? Share with 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.

The post The Best Marketing Blog Posts of 2013 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Must-Have Social Media Skills

Thu, 12/26/2013 - 06:00

From tweets to pins and everything in between, a company’s social media responsibilities can pile up like junk in a playroom. It’s time to tidy up your social to-do list with skills that work across platforms and networks, giving you more impact for your time and energy. And what better source of advice for cutting through clutter than the experts at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Natalie Burgwin, the senior public relations manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, says she knows how much time it takes to post, tweet, share and pin. On a daily basis, she utilizes social media as a customer service tool by sharing consumer tips and spreading the company message. While her efforts are time consuming, she has realized there are skills that apply to every social media site.

“It’s easy to get lost in the social media world. One hour can easily turn into three,” Burgwin says who gears the company’s efforts mainly towards Facebook and Twitter. “When you’re juggling several sites, it’s important to stick to the skills that are useful across the social media board.”

Here are the skills that Burgwin suggests focusing on to efficiently juggle social media sites:

Skill #1: Have a sense of humor

A great sense of humor tops Burgwin’s list of social media skills. Your posts should be fun and light-hearted at all times, she says. Customers want to talk to real people. “Gone is the day of canned, corporate responses. Behind us are the times of staying so perfectly p.c.,” Burgwin says. “If you’d like to engage through social media platforms, you must be engaging.”

Even a complaint can be handled with a little humor. For example, when a customer complained about a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? sign that blocked a bike rack, Burgwin replied with this comedic response:

Dear Cyclist,

At 1-800-GOT-JUNK? we employ magical Sign Fairies who are usually discerning about placement. Our new class of Sign Fairies that we are currently training is a bit overzealous with their sign placement. They actually escaped from their cage last week and it’s clear that one of them has visited your Starbucks bike rack in Chicago. We acknowledge that this sign placement was inconvenient. Please accept this email as a sincere apology from our corporate head office and our local franchise. We dispatched a team to remove it this morning; it is gone now.

Sincerely,

Natalie from 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Skill #2: Show common sense

You have to know how to handle a variety of interactions on social media platforms, Burgwin says. Because 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is a recognizable name, it is occasionally appropriated by customers and non-customers alike.

For example, when a tweeter complained about a controversial call during a hockey game, he used #1800GOTJUNK? in the message to emphasis the “junky” call.

“You have to know when to comment and when it’s best to leave it be,” Burgwin says. “You have to use good judgment and make sure you’re not wasting time and energy on some little prank or a comment that’s unrelated to your business.”

Skill #3: Use a filter

As you prepare messages for social media platforms, you have to use a filter, Burgwin said. In other words, you have to think about how your messages could be interpreted by others.

“Before you post anything, put it through your mental filter and make sure it won’t be misconstrued by anyone,” she says. “A 75-year-old woman will interpret a message much differently than a 15-year-old kid. You should be aware of that and make sure the message is appropriate before letting it go live.”

Skill #4: Be a stickler for grammar and style

Every message you send represents your company, so be sure there are no misspellings or grammatical errors, Burgwin says.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but even the big shots make mistakes. In an effort to boost Nielsen ratings for “Oprah’s Next Chapter” @Oprah tweeted, “Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Neilsen box.” In the tweet, Nielsen is spelled wrong.

“Take the time to proofread your message to ensure it’s flawless,” Burgwin says. “You can always type out the message in a word document first to check for errors and then copy and paste it to the site you’re using.”

Skill #5: Manage your time

Social media can be a big undertaking for any small business, which is why Burgwin says time management skills are a must. “Use your time wisely. Focus on social media sites that fit your business best,” she says. “Don’t add other sites unless you’re sure you have the time to invest.”

Remember, social media requires attention everyday. Over committing yourself to the wide variety of social media sites is one of the biggest traps a small business owner can fall into, Burgwin says.

Time management is crucial in the balancing act that is social media. It will likely be even more vital in the future as more small businesses flock to social media to get in front of their customers.

A recent survey shows 43% of small businesses devote six hours or more to social media, which is valuable time for any company. For Burgwin, these five skills are the keys to maximizing the social media sites for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and she believes they’ll have the same positive impact on your company.

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.

The post 5 Must-Have Social Media Skills appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Find Great Guest Bloggers

Tue, 12/24/2013 - 06:00

Including different perspectives in your company’s content strategy is a no-brainer: customers, partners, vendors and industry experts all add a new voice to your blog, spotlight your company’s reach and influence and even bring an audience with them. Finding someone to guest blog is relatively easy; finding someone who can do a great job and make your blog sparkle with their voice is more challenging.

Digital marketing strategist Ashley Bennett says small businesses can reel in top-notch bloggers if they know where to look. “There are great writers out there who can provide great content and boost the credibility of your company,” she says. But if you want to catch the big fish you need a little know-how and the right bait.

Bennett offers these four tactics to get some bites from bloggers.

Follow the big fish, hook the small ones

Bennett suggests following industry leaders on social media, especially Twitter. “Serious bloggers and journalists are on Twitter,” she says. “Build a relationship with a potential blogger by commenting on their posts. Once you’ve established a relationship, reach out to them through the social media platform and ask them to contribute to your blog.”

However, Bennett says it’s important to reach out to only those writers you can realistically expect to blog for you. For example, getting a guest post from Calvin Klein would be the catch-of-the-year for a fashion business, but if your blog is new, you’re setting your sights too high, Bennett says. “Don’t waste your time going after the big fish right away,” Bennett says. “Follow them on social media, but start with small fish to gain some traction first.”

Go to a blogger’s virtual watering hole

If you’re looking for bloggers, you’ve got to go where they are. A lot of bloggers use sites like bloggerlinkup.com and myblogguest.com to find sites that accept guest blogs. Business owners can ask for guest bloggers on these sites too.

“These sites are great for small businesses that are just starting to build a blog audience,” Bennett says. “You’ll be able to find some mid-level bloggers through these sites who will offer solid content and help you build an audience.”

While these resource sites are helpful, Bennett says you should still vet the writer by reading some sample posts and checking out their online presence. “Save yourself some time and money by looking into a writer before you ask them to post,” she says. “Put the work in up front to avoid headaches later.”

Use the right bait

Remember, bloggers work for a living. They’re after two things: exposure and cash.

“Incentives go a long way,” Bennett says. If you want to lure experienced bloggers, you need the right bait. “At the very least, allow a blogger to include a link to his or her site and give the blogger a byline,” Bennett says. “While those are nice incentives, a little money never hurts.”

Even if you offer $20-50 per post, it’s a way to raise the bar for content you’re willing to accept, Bennett says. Of course, bigger names will want more money.

Fish with a guide

If you want serious bloggers, you need guidelines posted on your blog, Bennett says. “A set of guidelines shows bloggers your business has a clear plan, which is very attractive to bloggers,” she says. “You’ll instantly weed out poor quality writers because they’ll realize that they have to write high quality content to be posted on your company’s site.”

Bennett says blogging guidelines should include a list of topics that your company is interested in, word count, and a policy about adding links to the blog post. For example, a career development site, InventYourFuture.com, has clear guidelines on its site.

Just like any fishing enthusiast, you need to be patient. As the overall quality and reach of your blog improve, you’ll be able to snag better guest bloggers, who will in turn help you build a bigger audience.

Do you include guest bloggers on your site? Tell us about it!

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.

The post How to Find Great Guest Bloggers appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Spot a Bad SEO Proposal

Mon, 12/23/2013 - 08:47

Optimizing your site for search engines, more commonly known as SEO, is a great way to boost your business and there are tons of great SEO agencies, companies and people that can help you do it right. Unfortunately, there are some SEO angencies out there that aren’t on the up and up. Sometimes shady “SEOs” can promise the moon, but leave you with just the stinky cheese. Getting worked over by a bad SEO proposal can not only cost you some serious coin, but can get you in trouble with Google, which can sink your business in the search results. Here are a few “activities” that should raise red flags, and prevent you from getting taken advantage of. Keep these tips top of mind when thinking about hiring an SEO to help boost your business.

Problem #1

The unsolicited email/ SEO proposal: You check your email and the subject line reads, “I’ll help grow your biz.” So you bite and open it. It reads: “Hey XYZ Company, My name is Larry and I work for Larry’s SEO Co. I noticed you aren’t on the front page of Google and I can get you there fast. You also aren’t on Google+, Twitter, etc. I can do this for only $10k a month. Also, I will get every one of your keywords on page one next month.”

A few reasons why this is a really horrible proposal: It’s impossible to give any sort of quote on price, “guarantees” and any other deliverables with out a decently deep dive into the current landscape. We’d be willing to bet that ol’ Larry didn’t put in a few hours work before sending you this bold SEO proposal. If the email sparked your interest, then get to searching Google and keep these next tips in mind.

Problem #2

When you get that SEO firm on the phone, keep your ears tuned to any of the following phrases, because even though they can be done, it might not be in a way that’s in line with Google’s Quality Guidelines and recent Panda and Penguin updates.

“We can get you to page 1 in 1 month!”: We usually don’t say something is impossible, but there’s no way a company can guarantee this and use white hat, Google approved methods. They’ll usually sneakily dance their way around that “guarantee” comment by saying they managed to get some ultra long tail keyword on page one. There aren’t too many people trying to get to page one for the keyword, “twenty ounce black tall and wide coffee mugs,” so they can semi-truthfully say this. Don’t be fooled by this big promise, just pass.

“We will get you 100k backlinks in 1 month”: While they might be able to actually get this done, the links are close to valueless and more than likely will get you penalized by Google. Don’t be tempted.

“Hey I noticed you don’t have a Google+ profile”: This might be true and a Google+ profile is a great thing to have, but a shady SEO company might try to charge you several hundred dollars to do what would take you 15 minutes to do in between checking your emails. We even made it nice and easy for you right here.

Problem #3

You don’t get you straight answers. If you’re paying someone to help you with SEO, you deserve a straight answer. If certain questions you ask make them squirm, you know it is time to look elsewhere for your SEO needs. Here are particular questions you should ask:

“How are you going to get me these backlinks?”: If this question makes them stammer, and drop some “ummms,” odds are they’re using some less than Google approved methods. If they use a vague response like, “our SEOs handle all that stuff,” that should also set off some red flags and you should pass on using the company.

“Can you send me a list of the links you obtain?” Much like having to cite your sources in a school research paper, a stellar SEO company won’t have any qualms about sending over a list of links they obtained. If they do send a list over, spend a few minutes to check over the links to make sure they aren’t spammy and low quality.

Like the robot from Lost in Space, we’re here to keep you from getting your business in danger! Keep these tips in mind and you can save your company valuable time and money. We’ve got 8 SEO tips everyone should know to help you succeed.

If you’ve received a strange or shady SEO proposal, we’d love to hear about 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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