Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part I

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man. The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people. Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues.

[Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of three blog posts.]

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man.

The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people.

Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues. Little useful nuggets of information and best Internet marketing practices—all to help make your business ‘bionic’—that is—better, stronger, faster.

Today’s best practices focus on online press releases and social media marketing. Enjoy!

Question: When it comes to online press releases, I know that PRWeb.com has been the defacto standard. However, I just came across another one that appears to offer a very well-rounded option called: www.prleap.com. Have you heard of them? What do you use/recommend?

Answer: I try to use ‘free’ online press distribution services whenever possible. PRLeap used to be free, now they charge a nominal fee. They do, however, get good listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if you don’t have a budget for press distribution and you’re looking for top notch free sites, check out www.i-newswire.com, www.prlog.org, and www.free-press-release.com. I use these all the time. Another great paid press release distribution service is, PRWeb.com. They provided added distribution to traditional media outlets, publication and periodical websites. Online PR is great tactic to increase your website’s visibility for SEO and traffic generation.

Question: What are some tips for getting the best results with online PR?

Answer: With online PR, the most important things are creating a newsworthy release which is keyword dense. It should also contain useful information for your target audience as well as media and bloggers. Releases that do well with pick up are usually about a company milestone, contrarian viewpoint, trend or forecast, important statistical data, launch of something (product, book, website) and similar information. The headline and sub-headline should have your top 5 keywords. In addition, your keywords should be sprinkled throughout the body of the release. There should always be a link to the longer version, which should be housed on your website in a ‘Press Room’ or ‘News’ section. And of course, there should be an ‘About’ portion of the release containing information or bio on the focus of the release. Having a call to action in the bio section is another great way to drive readers back to your site. For instance, having a ‘For more information or to sign up for our free enewsletter, click here now’.

Question: Can social marketing efforts be measured?

Answer: Yes, they sure can. Even better, the tools are all free and based off of good old fashioned direct response and public relations metrics—the 3 O’s-outputs, outcomes and objectives.

The tools are all free and based off of the 3 O’s:

  • Outputs measure effectiveness and efficiency. For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic and ezine sign ups the days following social media efforts.
  • Outcomes measure behavioral changes. For example, for this metric, I’d look at customer feedback… emails, phone calls, or website comments following social marketing efforts, and ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on posted articles. Relevant Google Alert results.
  • Objectives measures business objectives and sales. For example: The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial that may be linked to your social marketing efforts.

For each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance.

Question: Do I need to market my social media accounts? Won’t people find me with the right keywords.

Answer: Not really. You DO need to market your social media accounts. Sure the right keywords in your account profile and bio page will help, but think of your social marketing efforts as an extension of your brand and implement ‘social marketing branding’. Remember to include your social media account profile name, link, or icon in most everything you do:

  • Email auto signature
  • Ezine issues
  • RSS Feeds
  • Website home page
  • Business cards
  • PowerPoint Presentation cover page, footers and end slide
  • Press releases
  • Cross-market on other social sites

7 Customer Survey Tips, or How to Know Your Customer For Increased Leads & Profits

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC). For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. 

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC).

Knowing who your customers are—not just on a superficial level, but also on a deeper level—is fundamental for business longevity. It can help your business with most any targeted marketing efforts such as social media marketing (communities with like-minded interests), direct mail and email list selection, copywriting, media buying, affiliate marketing and more. It can also help with bottom-line goals such as bonding, lead generation and sales.

For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. Ideally, you want to survey at least two times per year, especially after large attrition or list growth.

The profile sheet is important, as it’s a quick reference of your “Joe and Jane” customers, as well as your ideal ‘target’ lead. After all, your prospecting efforts should be a reflection of your current customer base.

But surprisingly enough, not every business knows how to effectively implement and data-mine its online surveys and the respective results.

Here are some quick tips to get the best performance from your customer surveys for business growth and retention:

1. Keep surveys easy and short. The ideal length should be no longer than 10 to 20 questions and questions should be easy to answer. That means thinking of typical questions and having pre-populated multiple choice answers that only need a mouse click.

2. Go 360. Questions should cover demographics, geographics and psychographics. Also, for potential joint venture or advertising opportunities, it’s smart to also ask some competitor and purchase-behavioral type questions.

3. Segmentation is key. Send at least two separate emails to your list. One survey to paying customers and one survey to non-paying customers (leads). It will help later to have these two segments separated when you review response results. If one segment is less responsive than another, you can isolate future “bonding” strategies.

4. Offer incentives. I like to offer free, immediate and easily accessible gifts for survey participation after completion of a survey. Once users submit their last response they are redirected to a download page to free reports or similar. People are taking time out of their schedule and should be “rewarded” accordingly.

5. Be creative with the email subject line. I’ve found that response is greater if the focus of the subject line is more on the reward, rather than the goal. Readers respond better to the mention of freebies and gifts (the “what’s in it for me”), than asking for survey completion. Survey subject lines are viewed as clinical and boring, thus glared over in the inbox.

6. Embrace online tools. Use an easy, cost-effective online survey, such as SurveyMonkey.com. There’s different options and price points, varying on need and robustness. But ideally, you’d want to be able to collect emails and tie responses down to the user (email) level.

7. Allow feedback. Always have an “other” field for open comments. People like to either vent or add praise, so don’t limit them with only having all multiple choice. I tend to make this option the last question.

If you’ve set up your survey correctly where you can drill down responses to the user (email) level, you can then created “buckets” (categories) of common themes. For example, buckets could be based on RFM (recency, frequency or monetary) or on other categories such as interests.

You can then use this information for database marketing efforts and send more personalized messages to your list by group (or “bucket”). This targeted marketing approach has been proven to increase open, click, response and conversion rates by more than double!

Not surveying your list is really doing a disservice. You are not really getting to know your customers; thereby, aren’t offering your best editorial or promotional messages, or creating the best products.

If you’re truly looking for better retention, more customer engagement, and increased sales or leads, then make the time to survey your list.

If you’ve never done this before, then you’re truly leaving money on the table, my friend.

Point-Counterpoint Emerges Over the ROI of Social Media

It started out innocently enough.

Earlier this month, I posted a simple question online about how marketers measure the ROI of social media. I was blown away by all the responses I got.

The question was posted on eM+C contributor Jim Gilbert’s popular LinkedIn Group, Social Media Marketing Questions & Answers.

It started out innocently enough.

Earlier this month, I posted a simple question online about how marketers measure the ROI of social media. I was blown away by all the responses I got.

The question was posted on eM+C contributor Jim Gilbert’s popular LinkedIn Group, Social Media Marketing Questions & Answers.

Perhaps the most interesting response came from an exchange that took place in the discussion section of the LinkedIn Group between Steve Goldner, a social media/social network consultant who goes by the name Social Steve, and Doug Garnett, the founder and CEO of Atomic Direct, a brand DRTV agency. To me, it exemplified the ongoing battle between traditional direct marketers and new media executives when it comes to how to measure social media ROI.

Goldner started the discussion by posting a link to an article he wrote titled, “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” He noted that the article explained there’s a way to measure the ROI of social media, but marketers should be careful not to use “sales metrics” when measuring it.

That got Garnett thinking. “Steve’s article seems to suggest that ‘a metric of tweets, for example, is a valid ROI analysis.’ I don’t think that’s at all related to ROI,” he wrote.

He went on: “Having lots of tweets just might contribute to ROI. OR, it might be entirely tangential. You might have higher ROI with fewer Tweets if they’re of better quality.”

Garnett suggested that marketers stick with it and look for true ROI from social media, which he described as “increased sales (at some reasonable point) or same sales with lower marketing costs.”

Goldner countered that what Garnett considers true social media ROI — increased sales (at some reasonable point) or same sales with lower marketing costs — is really lead generation and that “social media should be measured in lead generation and increasing the probability of sales, not sales. Same is true for all other marketing endeavors.”

Garnett countered, “[I] guess one place we part ways is the goal of marketing. The advertising and communication goals are not necessarily focused on sales. But to me, marketing is the process of bringing an entire range of efforts (yup, the ‘4P’s’ are still quite valid) together to create revenue, profit, and market share.”

To read the whole discussion, click here.

I guess it all really depends how you look at it. Coming from the direct marketing world, I hear what Garnett is saying. But as I get more immersed in new media as editor of eM+C, I see Goldner’s point as well. So, I guess I haven’t made up my mind yet about what is the right way to look at it. What’s your take on the ROI of social media? Or the role of marketing in general? Let’s start a similar discussion here.

Point-Counterpoint Emerges Over the ROI of Social Media

It started out innocently enough.

Earlier this month, I posted a simple question online about how marketers measure the ROI of social media and was blown away by all the responses I got.

The question was posted on eM+C contributor Jim Gilbert’s popular LinkedIn Group, Social Media Marketing Questions & Answers.

It started out innocently enough.

Earlier this month, I posted a simple question online about how marketers measure the ROI of social media and was blown away by all the responses I got.

The question was posted on eM+C contributor Jim Gilbert’s popular LinkedIn Group, Social Media Marketing Questions & Answers.

Perhaps the most interesting response came from an exchange that took place in the discussion section of the LinkedIn Group between Steve Goldner, a social media/social network consultant who goes by the name Social Steve, and Doug Garnett, the founder and CEO of Atomic Direct, a brand DRTV agency. To me, it exemplified the ongoing battle between traditional direct marketers and new media executives when it comes to how to measure social media ROI.

Goldner started the discussion by posting a link to an article he wrote titled, “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” He noted that the article explained there’s a way to measure the ROI of social media, but marketers should be careful not to use “sales metrics” when measuring it.

That got Garnett thinking. “Steve’s article seems to suggest that ‘a metric of tweets, for example, is a valid ROI analysis. I don’t think that’s at all related to ROI,’ he wrote.

He went on: “Having lots of tweets just might contribute to ROI. OR, it might be entirely tangential. You might have higher ROI with fewer Tweets if they’re of better quality.”

Garnett suggested that marketers stick with it and look for true ROI from social media, which he described as “increased sales (at some reasonable point) or same sales with lower marketing costs.”

Goldner countered that what Garnett considers true social media ROI — increased sales (at some reasonable point) or same sales with lower marketing costs — is really lead generation and that “social media should be measured in lead generation and increasing the probability of sales, not sales. Same is true for all other marketing endeavors.”

Garnett countered, “[I] guess one place we part ways is the goal of marketing. The advertising and communication goals are not necessarily focused on sales. But to me, marketing is the process of bringing an entire range of efforts (yup, the ‘4P’s’ are still quite valid) together to create revenue, profit, and market share.”

To read the whole discussion, click here.

I guess it all really depends how you look at it. Coming from the direct marketing world, I hear what Garnett is saying. But as I get more immersed in new media as editor of eM+C, I see Goldner’s point as well. So, I guess I haven’t made up my mind yet about what is the right way to look at it. What’s your take on the ROI of social media? Or on the role of marketing in general? Let’s start a similar discussion here.

Practicing What We Preach

At eM+C we recently launched a LinkedIn Group and we’re excited about it. The eM+C LinkedIn Group offers readers of eM+C, eMarketingandCommerce.com, eM+C Weekly and All About eMail a place to connect and discuss interactive marketing topics and the state of online marketing in general.

At eM+C we recently launched a LinkedIn Group and we’re excited about it. The eM+C LinkedIn Group offers readers of eM+C, eMarketingandCommerce.com, eM+C Weekly and All About eMail a place to connect and discuss interactive marketing topics and the state of online marketing in general.

With the economy being the way it is, we thought this was the perfect time to start such a group. More than ever before, eM+C readers need a place to communicate, network and, heck, even rant with one another about what’s going on out there.

We also intend to use the group to get feedback from our readers about our brands. Please feel free to use the group to communicate with us about what you like and don’t like about the eM+C brand.

From time to time, we’ll post questions about our products, and we hope you’ll take the time to answer them. The more suggestions and feedback you give us, the better the magazine, Web site and e-newsletters will be for you.

We also started the group because we could see that our readers are very interested in LinkedIn. A recent article we ran by Jim Gilbert called “5 Tips For Using Linked In as a Business Tool” might be our most popular and best-read piece yet. Thousands of people read it when we posted it on Feb. 26, and thousands are still reading it today.

Another reason to join the group, according to Gilbert, is that it gives you a chance to market yourselves. If you answer a question asked in a LinkedIn Group, for example, the “questioner” can rate the best answers to the question. In turn, the best answers are awarded “expert” status in LinkedIn, Gilbert says. That can be a great branding tool for you to use.

But, don’t pitch your company’s products or services. Instead, give the best, most altruistic answer you can.

So for these reasons and plenty others, join the eM+C LinkedIn Group. It’s a win-win.