danniewriter

Head butting, reconstructed

If you own or manage a business, it’s likely that one of the least-favorite aspects of your job is responding to customer complaints. And, if you are on social media, it’s possible that the headache turns into a migraine if a troll has latched onto you.

Business Unplugged’s Carol Roth compiled a great collection of advice from business and communications pros about how to handle complaints, and trolls, and how to tell the difference. Some tips mentioned often:

Don’t respond in an angry or defensive manner, especially if you are dealing with a troll instead of a legitimate customer. Trolls want conflict. Don’t feed them.

You may feel that a customer’s complaint is unfair or possibly even untrue. It is your job to listen and respond with professionalism. Provide them with a way to communicate with you directly about their complaint. Direct messaging via the platform (Facebook or Twitter, for example), is the best way to start.

When you respond with patience and restraint, your faithful customers and supporters will chime in with their stories of great experiences at your business.

Respond, even if you need to step away from the computer for a while first to cool down. The silence of not responding screams to current and potential customers, “I don’t care if you’re happy or not.”

You have no control over reviews and comments on other sites such as Yelp, but it’s possible for you to block a follower from your own Facebook or Twitter feed. Do this only as a last resort. If you are dealing with someone who simply wants to rant, and if you have made an effort to respond in a reasonable and professional way, you can control who can post on your feeds. Do it too often, however, and you get the same blowback as not responding at all.

Finally, try to keep a sense of humor about everything. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible it will keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. As an aside, it’s OK to approach complaints and haters with humor, too, but make sure you really have a gift for it first. It’s a tricky business to convey sarcasm online. Check out some pros who do it really well, Moon Pie and Wendy’s.

Pitch the rug: Manage PR crises with integrity

When you are in charge, and something bad happens, instinct can serve you well, but not always.

Instinct can equip you to put out fires, the literal and figurative blazes, quickly and efficiently. As a business owner, or head of a community organization, that instinct is like gold. It can prevent a spark from growing into a conflagration.

Where instinct can let you down, however, is in dealing with the aftermath of a crisis. Your gut tells you to circle the wagons, swear people to secrecy, and give a terse “no comment” to the press, the public, and even your stakeholders. Bad idea.

How you handle problems says more about you as a leader than how great you look riding the biggest wave of success.

Matt Valentine of Goalcast recaps four major public relations crises, and how corporate leadership responded with integrity and transparency. A few things that rise to the top:

  • They responded quickly.
  • They responded like human beings, not corporations.
  • They took a financial hit without flinching (at least publicly).
  • They answered their stakeholders’ questions sooner rather than later.

The Apple v. FBI example is unique, but there are lessons that can transfer seamlessly to your business or organization. The non-corporate tone of its response to customers is especially impressive. The document is straightforward and easy to understand, but it doesn’t bog the reader down with too much detail. It quickly goes to the heart of the issue, and states Apple’s position clearly.

If your business or organization is facing a tough time, there’s no need to tell the public everything about the crisis, but it is important that you tell them something that is truthful and makes sense. I have experience with crisis communications, and would be happy to help you with this, and other public relations issues. Contact me by email at danniewriter@gmail.com, or call (502) 432-8725.

 

 

Small business marketing on a shoestring

 

May is a time to celebrate small businesses. In our mail-order/drive-thru/cookie-cutter existence, you, small business owners, give our lives and communities character, color, and identity. Thank you.

I’ve written frequently about how tough it is for small business owners to think proactively and for the long-term when immediate concerns are so, well, immediate. I don’t have any answers to a lack of time, but I’ve run across some tips and resources that can help you market on a shoestring.

Writing for Forbes, Mike Kappel has seven tips for small budgets. Note: It has never been easier to start a website or blog than it is right now. If you’ve been putting it off, don’t. Start with a simple, one-page site with a concise description of what you do, where you are, and how customers can reach you. Make sure the site looks good on smart phones and tablets.

If you feel like your business gets lost among your competitors during the big annual sales, consider picking a new date for a promotion. Small Business Trends has some ideas, and a comprehensive list of lesser-known “holidays” and annual awareness campaigns. (Remember, May is National Small Business Month.) Don’t get lost in the crowd; find your own day and start making plans.

Need some inspiration? Check out the companies that the U.S. Small Business Administration singled out for recognition in their annual awards. Read their stories. Take a look at their websites. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m willing to be that you’ll find at least one marketing idea that you will be able to implement immediately.

Are you ready to write a marketing plan for your business? The SBA has a section of its website devoted just to sales and marketing. It includes a sample of a marketing plan to help get you started.

If you know you need to do a better job marketing, but can’t seem to find the forest for the trees, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

 

Trends: Looking back; looking forward

Do a Google search on 2018 marketing predictions, and you will read about IoT (Internet of Things), Chatbots, live streaming, virtual reality–and that’s just scratching the surface. For small businesses and organizations, all that techno-speak can be overwhelming, especially if you handle your own marketing and public relations.

Take heart. In the midst of all this gadgetry and constant change, the experts also have a great deal to say about foundational, even old school, marketing techniques.

Here are some insights on 2017 marketing trends that came to pass, and predictions for 2018.

The site, B2C: Business to Community, shared a very helpful column by Sarah Hanney that focuses on marketing for small businesses. A blogger for Signkick, it’s not surprising that Hanney has something positive to say about outdoor advertising, but her perspective is sound, and there is a new take on how billboards, bus signs, and the like, can work in concert with digital media.

There are other approaches that Hanney, and other experts, mention that are as old as movable type, although the names have changed: purpose-driven, and influencer, marketing.

Mathew Sweezey puts it this way in a post for salesforce: “Marketing of the future must have a heart.” Now more than ever, consumers want to do business with companies that care about the communities in which they operate, in addition to a national, and sometimes, global community.

That sense of mission and integrity is really in demand today, and marketers and influencers are responding.

Consider Virat Kohli, a pro cricketer from India, who turned down what must have been a highly lucrative deal with Pepsi because he wanted to promote a healthier product. Read S. Swaminathan’s piece on Campaign India. His insights are helpful to all of us.

Celebrities are not the only “influencers” you can call on to market your products, services, or organization. Find out more about influencer marketing in a blog post by Joshua Nite for TopRank Marketing.

If you need help marketing your small business or community non-profit, give me a call. I can develop a plan for you that uses old-school and new-school media to get your message to the right audience. The initial consultation is free.

Tell your story with enthusiasm

No one “just” runs his own business or “just” leads a community non-profit organization.

Use the word “just,” and suddenly you are saying that who you are, and what you do is ordinary.

I’d be willing to bet it isn’t.

The story of your business/organization is unique. You’d probably be surprised to learn how interested your customers/supporters are to hear those stories.

Business/organizational leaders who wear multiple hats and direct small staffs don’t have much time for brainstorming, or what I sometimes refer to as “bellybutton gazing.” That’s why I really like Tami Brehse‘s approach to storytelling as marketing. Brehse, a former television news anchor, runs her own marketing and public relations consultancy in Florida.

A column she wrote about how to use storytelling to develop your company’s brand was distilled nicely into this infographic:

She also provides a free worksheet that will help you clarify your thoughts. From these simple tools you can develop the story of your company/organization that your audience is itching to hear.

If you need assistance in telling that story, don’t hesitate to contact me. The initial consultation is free.

(Out)Pour with care

It’s still raining in Houston.

The impulse to do something, anything, to try to help the untold number of people affected by Harvey is very strong. It’s a great impulse. An outpouring of assistance is needed, but it is important to do that “pouring out” with care.

It is way too easy for fraudulent charities to capitalize on tragedy via social media. That link in a Facebook post, Tweet, text, or email may be going to someone’s back pocket instead of a reputable charity. Share these tips on your business’ or non-profit organization’s website and social media accounts as a way to show your support of those affected by the disaster:

Know the charity. If you are contacted by a non-profit organization that says they are soliciting donations for storm relief, take a few minutes to do some homework before you make that gift.

Type in URLs. Don’t use embedded links to take you to a charity’s website. Type the name and/or address in your browser.

Give money, not in-kind donations. With few exceptions (bottled water and disposable diapers being the biggies), in-kind donations are a bad idea. Sorting and distributing in-kind donations is a labor-intensive exercise, and every volunteer who comes into a disaster area takes away from the already overtaxed resources needed for displaced residents–chiefly fuel, food, and potable water. Wise donors give their money to organizations with expertise in deploying well-trained and well-equipped volunteers.

Three exceptional non-profits consistently rise to the top of disaster relief efforts:

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

 

ICYMI: Great email tips for non-profits

July is here, so it is all hands on deck for the rest of 2017 for non-profit organizations. It’s time to finalize designs and themes for holiday- and end-of-year giving campaigns. Now is the time to make decisions about direct mail, advertising, and video promos.

Now is also a great time to add potential donors to your email list, and thoughtfully schedule when those messages will be delivered.

Scott Paley, co-founder and CEO of Abstract Edge, has some great advice for both activities.

The blog post, “An Easy Way to Build Your Email List,” is one that must be read in its entirety. Paley makes a clear distinction between adding addresses that might become here-today-and-gone-tomorrow prospects, and real leads that eventually become donors.

A second post from Paley might seem to fly in the face of common sense: Sending the same email to the same contact more than once.

Common sense screams that such repetition invites unsubscribes from your list, but Paley points out that, depending on the size of your list, just about every email you send will result in a few unsubscribes. By adding “ICYMI” or a similar tag to your original subject line, you are letting your contact know that the content you are sending is a re-run. It’s an exercise in integrity, and it lets the prospect know that you really consider the content important, and not something you are trying to “dress up” as something new.

I think this is well worth a try for your next email marketing campaign.

If you need some fresh ideas on communicating with your existing or potential donor base, give me a call. The initial consultation is free.

The ‘old’ that is ‘new’ again

Previously I’ve mentioned in this space that print and direct mail are still viable marketing options. The USPS has recently compiled a great deal of research that drives that point home, but the specific audience consuming these hard copy communications methods might surprise you.

Millennials.

Yep, today’s “young-to-youngish” adults (born in the mid-1980s to early 2000s) are looking forward to going to the mailbox, just like I did when I was a kid.

Make no mistake, millennials are still plugged in. They likely are texting while going to the mailbox, but they are interested in catalogs, mailers, and old-fashioned letters. This is the crowd that, despite the affordability and availability of e-readers, likes the feel of a book in their hands. And because there is less material arriving in mailboxes today than in decades past, consumers are paying more attention to what is there.

As you develop your marketing and communications strategy, embrace the multi-channel approach, and include print and direct mail in the plan. Below are links to a couple of related posts on this topic that I have written previously. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like assistance in promoting your products, services, or causes.

https://danniewriter.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/old-school-still-works/

https://danniewriter.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/egon-got-it-wrong/

 

A festival of failure

I ran across a couple of articles related to a new museum opening next month: The Museum of Failure.

Psychologist Samuel West came up with the concept. Here’s a takeaway for you as reported by Leah Fessler of Quartz Ideas: Every failure is uniquely spectacular, says West, while success is nauseatingly repetitive. True innovation requires learning from the complexities of each failure—a skill that, he says, most companies fail to hone. (Word of caution, if you are offended by f-bombs there are a couple in the last paragraph of the story. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2ouLvIa)

Examining spectacular failures is not a new way to turn a corner. Many brave people have done so as a prelude to major breakthroughs.

Running a business, or managing a community non-profit, isn’t easy. Everyone goes through times of doubt, and even setbacks. I encourage you to look for stories of big comebacks. Here are a couple to start:

If you need a fresh look at your marketing and promotion strategies, or maybe you need to create a strategy for the first time, give me a call. I’d love to help. The initial consultation is free.

 

 

The point about touch points

In an exercise in taking my own advice, I’m

  1. Recycling content that I think has value, and
  2. Attempting to share posts that are concise … and brief.

A trendy term tossed around marketing circles is “touch point” which is mentioned in Dale Partridge’s excellent article on branding that I shared previously. Simply put, a touch point is every point in the customer/donor/employee process where those individuals interact with the company or organization. For example: Touch points for a small business could be a newspaper/TV/radio or online ad. A catalog, printed or digital, is another touch point. The process of making a donation and receiving an acknowledgement letter are a couple of touch points for non-profits. For your employees, touch points are the interview, hiring, training, performance evaluation, payroll and benefits processes.

No matter how small your business or organization is, it is a system that needs to be analyzed and reviewed frequently. You may find that your advertising and social media presence are effective, but customers are frustrated by the lack of parking near your store, or the online catalog that frequently times out before a sale is completed. Maybe your non-profit does a great job of quickly processing financial gifts, but it takes too long for acknowledgement letters to go out for in-kind donations. For your staff, maybe a failing touch point is in training or performance evaluations.

It’s easy to see that there are dozens of touch points that can impact your business/organization’s brand. As you gather data and feedback from customers/donors and staff, and make improvements, your brand will begin to stand out among your competitors.

If you need some assistance on finding out what your brand really is, give me a call. I’d love to help.