Monday, 18 October 2010

Marketing and use of Social Media

Henmore's virtuous circle of marketing communications diagram illustrates the marketing challenges businesses need to address.

During the workshops this week we helped businesses with the use of Social Media in their marketing.  Participants came armed with laptops and applied changes to their online presence during the workshop.  I am driven by a determination to help businesses translate ideas into workable strategies, that they succeed in putting into action, gaining desired results. It is not enough for me to see people scribbling notes of their good intentions, because I have experienced those intentions myself and subsequently lost the piece of paper (or the good intentions).  We all know about this inevitable loss of momentum.  That's why I like interactive workshops and year plus programmes like our Marketing Club.

Last week people in the room were there to make changes.  But of course we worked our way towards that part of the workshop.  First of all we looked at the challenges faced by businesses in generic terms, referencing Henmore's much-referred-to trademark diagram (as shown above).  Each workshop participant in the room articulated the particular marketing communications challenges that were a priority for them.  Then we took action on the laptops.

I am sure someone once advised it is high risk to present live in an environment of children, animals and IT.  We only had live IT, and it seemed to work OK on this occasion.

As presenter and facilitator I really enjoyed the sessions and the enthusiasm of the business owners in the room.  I would like to thank everyone for all the positive comments and the reviews and recommendations that we have received as a result.  And I would like to thank Jane Stretton at Dove Studios for the refreshments and the perfectly functioning IT connections.

If you would like to join one of our marketing and social media training courses in Staffordshire or Derbyshire please check our upcoming events or sign up to receive email invitations.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Is the customer king, more than ever before?

Do you remember that old phrase 'The Customer is King'?

It was an adage that businesses had to regard, because unhappy customers had the annoying habit of muttering their displeasure around the local community. The result was that businesses had to take note and make improvements, assuming improvements were necessary. Either that, or the community made an assessment of the mutterings, filtering out the ramblings of the odd unhappy customer on the basis they were probably maladjusted or had a personal vendetta. Easy enough to spot – then as now.

I was particularly interested in the TripAdvisor debate and the views of various commentators and phone-in participants. I was reassured that people said they'd ignore someone whose user name is something like 'ChocChipCookie' making a personally damning observation along the lines of “the hotel owner is aggressive and a sexist racist and you shouldn't stay in her/his hotel . . .”

True, Social Media does give King Customer an instant voice. These tools take us back to hyper local ways, albeit across a global economy. I was just researching the latest views on social media tools for this weeks workshops and was reading a blog article on Social Media Today on which I just had to leave a comment. It said:

“One happy and connected customer can start a spiraling of praise which can hyper accelerate building a global brand. And one maligned (or maladjusted) unhappy customer can put the breaks on a multi-million dollar campaign and bring pain to a huge company.”

I said I thought the author was exaggerating. Huge brands have so much consumer interaction that a few negative comments are drowned out.

Many would sign off their blog criticism with #justsaying (on Twitter) or Just sayin' (on a blog comment). This always reminds me of when people say “no offence, but . . .” It's fun this social media, isn't it? A couple of opinionated people on different continents having their say, jostling for position and recognition by being slightly critical but mainly in agreement.

The author's main thought, about the struggle businesses have on Social Media in finding their voice and putting on a face, is a point on which I wholeheartedly concur.

As I said, I am meant to be researching social media views in preparation for the workshops on Wednesday and Thursday this week when I was distracted by this blog post, and just had to leave a comment. . .and then had a coffee and thought a bit more about it and decided to write this blog on the subject . . . and have it feed through to facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

It was a time-consuming distraction . . . . a sign of the times for sure.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Social Media for Business - marketing training event

Social Media - your business voice

Social media has revolutionised small business marketing. There ever never before been such a cheap and easily accessible set of tools. More and more small businesses are seeing the benefits of social media to help increase awareness, create and nurture relationships, generate new leads, increase search engine placements, monitor marketing effort ... all with reduced expense.

It takes thought, so many organisations are not yet effectively establishing and managing a strong social media presence, let alone keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of social outlets and tools.

Henmore's interactive, hands-on workshop session covers:
  • Social Media Basics & Beyond: Understanding key social media outlets, emerging trends and new tools and communities to consider in your social media plans
  • Creating Your Social Media Strategy: Developing and implementing a social media strategy that supports your specific brand voice and vision, takes into account your day to day realities,  identifies which tools make sense (and which don’t) for your business.
  • 5 Marketing Questions to ask yourself: What you need to consider before diving into specific social media outlets - and tips for making your effort worthwhile when you do.
  • Tips, Tricks & Real-world Examples - ideas, practices and lessons learned from helping clients with their marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Blogging, and more.
Our social media session is always one of the liveliest. We share our knowledge and give you tips
and tools to help you get started, grow and solidify your social media strategies.

2012 Social Media Workshops - schedule and booking

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Social media follow up for WiRE group

More on Facebook for the women entrepreneurs of Derbyshire and Staffordshire who are busy with their Facebook pages:

Importing your blog to the Facebook Notes.

Prep your Blog:
  • Check your feed settings on your blog and make sure it is set to allow feed
  • Find your feed address - likely to be your blog URL/feeds/posts/default or something like that.
Edit your Facebook page:
  • In edit pages of your FB page go to Notes and select import external blog option
  • Add the feed address that you identified above
  • Decide if you want to publish to your wall or just to your notes.  (see previous post here for thoughts on this)
Hope this helps - let me know!


Monday, 12 July 2010

Facebook for Small Business Owners

I met up with some enterprising women from Staffordshire and Derbyshire at the local WiRE meeting last week. The highlight of the evening was obviously the delicious local Staffordshire food provided by Emily and Maggie of Simply Staffordshire in the relaxing environment of Dove Farm. The main notice of the evening was the launch of the WiRE Doves Networking pages on Facebook. To accompany the launch I was tasked with presenting on the subject of using Facebook for business. This post is a follow up for those that want to get started or work a bit harder at using Facebook.

A show of hands revealed that most of the women in the room were small business entrepreneurs who were either sceptical about Facebook or inactive users. With a couple of advanced users in the room we were well set up for some lively discussion.

1. Mindset for Facebook

Adopting Facebook does require a different mindset to having a web site and using email. To some, it is uncomfortable when their interface with the online world becomes potentially more personal, more visible, possibly less controllable. Maybe I was too harsh and modern when I suggested that it was time to 'get over ourselves'. But I said this with true passion to the women in the room simply because I really want them to take action asap to help their businesses. Right now there is still opportunity to get in on the act while this space is less crowded. If they wait until the culture is fully adopted and they are inured to this whole way of doing business then it may become harder to gain a foothold. And mistakes will be more obvious to the world. I was an early adopter and made some mistakes along the way - we all did at the start- but Social Media Marketing is becoming more established and part of this means that ways of conducting yourself are becoming established. Why do humans so love to create rules of conduct, I wonder?

2. Manage your Personal Brand on Facebook

I am always banging on about how your business has a brand, an identity, a personality, that it is not necessarily the same as that of the owner or founder. You and your business are different (I have a fun exercise on this for another time). But on Facebook you are required to join as an individual first. You have to sign up as a consumer and are encouraged to provide some information and a picture just to get going. Nb Leter when you set up a business page your identity and your business identity become seperate again.

  • Think really hard about the information you provide. Choose the Interests you list. This is info about you as a consumer and will drive the adverts and information that is placed on your page. E.g if you list Travel and the Far East as interests you will receive special offers and adverts from holiday companies operating there, that may be useful. By being female and over 40 you will be bombarded by dieting and debt ads. Obscure and quirky things may seem fun just to position you versus other people, but it all forms part of your online personal brand so please sanity check what you offer – and set your privacy for who can see this information.
  • Get comfortable with the Privacy Settings and activate them. They are much easier now than before. You need to be in control of this!
  • For more Privacy sophistication, put your contacts into Lists and control the privacy levels associated with these lists accordingly. Start as your mean to carry on with this. (Parents take note – your children, when they get savvy, might put you on a List and you will be in blissful ignorance of their real online outpourings).
  • The Wall is something to manage and understand. You can write on your own to distribute your status (aka a thought/deed/update) to all your Friends; you can jot something on your Friends' walls; you can also write something on the wall of a Business or Organisation e.g WiRE Doves Network or Alton Towers. Just remember that whatever you write stays with you publicly on your wall.
  • If you 'Like' something you see then click to say so. The fact that you have done so is shared to all your Friends. In organisational terms this is a great viral way to raise awareness of brands and issues. It also work conversely if you complain by writing a negative Comment – so use this tool to hold businesses and organisations to account. Organisations also have online reputations to maintain.
  • Quick word on Marketplace – it is a place to flog or give-away stuff, visible to your friends – and Groups – indicators of the collective state of mind and vehicles for the collective voice. Groups are mainly for lobbying and spreading trends. If you feel strongly about something there will be a Group for it or you could start your own.

3. Manage your Business Brand on Facebook

Really, really easy to set up a business page (once you have a personal account). And a lot less personal as there is no need for your mug shot or your name to be on the page (although you will be the first fan to join your page so at that point the connection remains obvious).

  • Think about the name you use for the page and picture/logo you add. As an example, the holiday cottage has benefited from being called 'Barks Holiday Cottage near Alton Towers' because it positions it clearly. On Facebook adverts this vital geographical fact has been in the headline. When people search Alton Towers on Facebook, up pops the cottage in their search list. FYI
  • Choose and add other pages: Add Notes, Info, Boxes, Photos, Video, Events and any other Apps (.e.g Twitter feed) that suit your business. Try and get it all sorted out before you get people to join/follow your page because changes are notified to your followers.
    Contact details – A good spot is in the little biog bit on the top left of your page and in the Notes section.
  • Set which page you want to act as the opening page – it is not necessary to have the Wall as the main page and wouldn't be suitable for some businesses.
    There is a place to show 'Favourite pages' of your business so add wisely to suit your business brand and ethos and to support your associates' businesses (e.g. other WiRE Dove networkers' businesses.)
  • Import your blog to your Notes page using the RSS feed from your blog. Choose carefully whether you want your blog posts to be published onto the wall (and thus automatically sent to your followers) as this may be overwhelming or may be perfect, depending on your business. The blog can be a good opening page.
  • Post status updates. How often? You know you get it right when interesting snippets please your followers and they post comments or click the Like. Gratifying sure, but more importantly they are spreading the word to all their friends. You know you get it wrong when your followers decide to hide your feed, or worse still leave altogether by unfollowing your business. A negative comment would be better than have them unfollow!

4. Facebook Business Targets

First Target = 100 Fans / followers: then you can set the page name for your business from a whole load of numbers and squiggles to a meaningful name that you can publish on your business cards. I will deal with how to find and keep followers another time.

Ongoing target and primary goal: Engage with your followers and fans

Right now this is relatively easy. Users of Facebook have not yet become so discerning about what they follow and like and join. There is still a level of innocence to it all, especially with the older users who are signing up in the droves right now. It doesn't take long before you want to start weeding out the 'noise' by paring down what you follow.

Management Target: to maintain the post quality and the number of likes and interactions so that you can measure and maximise the level of engagement you are achieving with your followers. Because Engagement is what it all about.

As a business using Facebook think really hard about what you post and how frequently. Your goal is to elicit Likes and Comments from your followers and getting testimonials and fan photos from them.

BTW – if you are a friend of the business owner, remember it is not helping them promote their brand and business if you write personal, non business-related comments on their wall. It could actually be damaging.

Engaging with customers and prospects so openly can have its downsides too. If you do get a negative comment then deal with it to your advantage - clarify, apologise, offer recompense, rectify as appropriate. (If all else fails there is always the Remove comment button.)

Long term target: If you can manage to get 10,000 fans you can get some serious analytical insights into each post and who read it etc. We'll come back to that another time perhaps when everyone is a bit nearer this target.

In the mean time, I wish everyone in the room every success with their online marketing.

5. And Finally

A quick plug for us - Henmore has services and packages that cover set up and management of most online marketing methods in case you, or anyone you know, is short of time or patience for handling all this Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc stuff. Drop me a line for further details or call to discuss.

This post has now gone on far too long, as did my talk. I admired the forebearance of those not interested in the subject of Facebook politely waiting to be allowed to sample the delicious desserts on offer; thanks for your patience. My effort of preparing and giving the talk was rewarded by those that set about creating or improving their Facebook pages the very next day. Thank you for your enthusiasm. I was amused by the Twitter activity between @HenmoreLtd and @SimplyStaffs next day. LOL!

If I can help you further please do get in touch.

If you would like further details of the WiRE Doves Network please visit the new Facebook page.

Friday, 2 July 2010

PR from an editors point of view

I have just read a great blog post written by an editor about how editors are treated and what they face day to day. I have pleasure refering clients and PR associates alike to this great post that explains what is acceptable and not acceptable to a modern editor of a trade publication.

I have been fortunate over the years to consider many editors as colleagues and our work has been mutually beneficial and enjoyable. It is not always easy, however, to build 'relations' when you work in Public Relations and to find the 'social' when you use Social Media, in the way this blog post suggests PR and marketing people should always do. I agree, however, that this is what should be done.

There are plenty of editors that build impenetrable walls around themselves. There are lots of journalists that enjoy proving to novice PRs that there is a imbalance of power to be remembered at all times - the power being in the hands of the journalist, of course. These are unhelpful attitudes but are a response, no doubt, to the unforgivable behaviour of too many PRs and companies that try to randomly promote stuff using the online equivalent of a blanket junk mail campaign. It's just rude behaviour all around.

Shh, don't tell anyone but . . . there are plenty of times when editors rely on PRs for relevant information, contacts and, of course, opportunites and transport to cover a story first hand - but PRs are never meant to openly acknowledge this side of the relationship as it hints at some sort of impartiality in journalism. Obviously I would never, ever suggest journalists can be swayed in any way, just that PRs and editors both have jobs to do and can help each considerably if they know how to make things a bit easier for each other. After all, I shall never forget that balance of power as long as I am in the PR business ;)

I like to think that this blog post from a real, live editor might restore the faith of a few hurting, novice PRs and provide some tips to anyone considering some DIY media relations. This blogger reminds us of a golden rule of PR: publications are approachable if we have applied serious thought to what each editor requires. It also reminds us of a golden rule of doing business: remember our manners.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Strictly Marketing Workshop

The Strictly Marketing Club programme is unashamedly one of my favourite business activities at Henmore and yesterday's workshop reinforced my fondness for it. Such a great team of members. They set aside valuable time, taking time out from the day to day stuff that earns them immediate money and instead came along to focus on marketing. Added to that they are generous in spirit; they don't just focus on their own marketing, they stretch their brains and their energy on each others' businesses too.

If you are a business owner, taking time to focus on marketing is vital but incredibly hard to do in an effective way. As Paul observed yesterday, he wants to brainstorm his ideas, have them sanity checked and then test the detail on other people. Fine to do in the Strictly workshop environment but hard to achieve in a busy work environment or at home of an evening.

Yesterday the group set about a task of coming up with marketing campaigns for a ficticious company that was facing a difficult challenge. With a given set of limited resources they created campaign ideas to flush out sales interest from a cold list and qualify them into a sales pipeline. In 15 mins there were a number of genuinely workable campaigns fully mapped out and discussed. I think it was Brendan that articulated the take-away thought of the exercise - we do have 15 minutes that we could set aside to achieve the same in our own businesses. . . the trouble is, without the fictitious boss, the deadline or pressing circumstances we rarely apply such a rigourous approach.

Back at HQ, without the relaxed environment at Dove Studios combined with the collective creativity and resourcefulness of the group, it is hard to get into the right frame of mind to find that 15 minutes. There were, however, a good many campaign ideas generated yesterday that could be taken back to HQ and put into action.

And although as businesses owners we don't have a boss, we do have the sheet of paper with all the actions we committed to taking prior to the next meeting on 8th September.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Pink Concert PR disaster at Alton Towers

It was all going so well, Pink wowed the capacity crowd at Alton Towers . . . . and then it was time to leave the concert and head home. That's when, from midnight, it all started going horribly wrong at Alton Towers. A double whammy, guest and local residents PR disaster ensues! Quick, arrange a meeting with the crisis management PR people.

I had heard last week that Alton Towers were genuinely expecting it to take 4 hours to exit the park - well they were right, it just about did take that long. I really have to wonder why, if Alton Towers knew how long it was going to take, they couldn't make better arrangements. Either find a way to get everyone out of the park quicker, or find a way to set more realistic expectations.

Guests exiting the park at 2am after a 2 - 3 hour stationary wait apparently vented their frustration by beeping their car horns in the local villages. Not sure how that fits into operating within a noise abatement order (brought about by the already frustrated residents of Farley). During a meeting at Alton Towers recently, the PR person said to me that they had given up worrying about what local residents think of Alton Towers. Amazed by this, I downloaded a Charter they've written on this subject and looked carefully to find any meaningful content, but alas, there was none so I guess she meant what she said.

The residents of a few roads in Alton and Oakamoor receive a quota of free theme park passes to compensate them for the lines of traffic passing their front windows, but then receive letters reminding them that special events like concerts are strictly off limits with these passes . . . oh and sorry about the extra traffic jams and noise it will all cause. I don't guess they mentioned the likely risk of angry car drivers beeping at 2am! This letter went down quite badly, which was a pity when it could have been turned into a local PR triumph with just a bit of smart thinking. But Alton Towers' PR thinking of late has been about issuing press releases to do with the need for plastic pants on Thirteen and the calorific content of the flies that riders unwittingly ingest. Not very strategic.

Meanwhile, customers invest in Park plus Pink tickets and get there early to enjoy a day at the park prior to the concert; a USP over Coventry where Pink played last weekend. Were the early birds with this ticket really directed to the furthest away car park K? Surely better arrangements were in place. No?! Just imagine, there you are with your kids, after 14 hours spent trailing round Alton Towers (with a lack of food and facilities to cope with the pre-booked 28,000 guests) and guess what? Only another 2 and a half hours from midnight sitting together in the car before you need bother to start the engine! It just wasn't what full paying customers were expecting. No wonder there are so many complaints posted on their Facebook page this morning! These techniques to engage your customers are great, aren't they . . . I've not seen any replies from Alton Towers as yet!

Fabio Capello is probably not the only one who's job contract is being examined this morning! Was there any trouble getting people out of Glastonbury do you think? Alton Towers, it really is time to consider PR a lot more strategically than you do. Plastic pants indeed.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New web site - we're like those cobblers' children

Do you ever get completely fed up with your website? We certainly have with ours! The old one stayed up way too long and became an embarrassment. It's not that we lack the skills, far from it, the trouble is we always priorise our clients' requirements. . . Cobblers children!

We have prepared ourselves a brief, at least, and put up a 'holding site' while we prepare a new site. The reality is that it will take a while. This is what we are planning:

•Give reassuring examples of the ways our current clients successfully add our marketing communications expertise to their organisations. It's important that potential customers understand what we are all about. It is also vital that existing clients know how to make the most of our range of services. A few case studies should show how we handle ongoing marketing activities and specific projects on behalf of clients.

•Raise awareness of our work with Midlands-based entrepreneurs and business owners that keeps them in charge of their own marketing. In particular we'd like to promote our popular consultancy offerings: the Strictly Marketing Club, a group business development programme, and our hard hitting half-day Team Workshops for marketing trouble-shooting. We have been experimenting with lots of the 'free' marketing tools recently, so that we can advise clients on what works and what doesn't. We created a Google site for Strictly Marketing and a private forum on LinkedIn for members to share ideas and give feedback. Check out the Google site so far, its been a bit of a fiddle: Strictly Marketing Business Development

•Position our business as having seasoned marketing, design, copywriting and web experts. We have been going for almost 20 years. We would like to inspire some extra confidence for potential customers to try us by showcasing our team and focusing on our years of experience organising all sorts of marketing-related projects. We put links on the holding page to LinkedIn and this blog.

Making preparations for the holding site has taken quite a bit of effort. I am reminded how much work goes into preparing a whole new web site. This is a timely reminder of what our clients go through, even with our direction and support. They also have to prioritise working IN the business rather than ON it.

So, cobblers children that we are, a new holding page will have to suffice for the time being