Recipes for Success

A Marketing Blog about Digital Strategies to Create Exceptional Customer Experiences

5 Tips to Accelerate Your Work Productivity

Squeezing more productivity into the work day seems to be on the mind of many managers and entrepreneurs. I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, but have learned a lot over my years of being a perpetual student. I have found that the basic concepts have stayed the same over time, but many of the challenges and useful tools have changed with the evolution of technology. Following are my top tips (and suggested tools) to be more productive in your work day. These relate to general work productivity, and for my “go to” online marketing resources, you can check out my free guide. Evaluate Your Current State of Work Productivity Before launching into any new project or setting a new goal, it is a best practice to assess where your current strengths and challenges lay. I like to equate it to keeping a food journal before starting a diet! By the simple process of being more mindful and documenting how you spend your time, it is likely that you will increase your productivity (by at least 20%) before you have made a move to consciously change anything! A simple way to accomplish this self-evaluation is by keeping a notepad by your desk (or in your pocket when you are on the go) and setting an alert for every 30-60 minutes to make note of how you have spent your time. I recommend breaking it out into 10-15 minute increments — all of those little distractions add up! You may find that a “1 hour writing project” was interrupted by a 10 minute phone call and a 15 minute...

How to Use Facebook for Customer Service

Did you know that there are just under 1.5 billion monthly active users on Facebook now? (see more stats here) And according to a study by Accent Marketing & reported by ZDNet, almost a third of consumers use Facebook for customer service… clearly, there is an opportunity here that a lot of businesses are failing to capitalize on! Even if you do most of your business “in-person” (aka – local business or bricks & mortar), it is becoming essential for local business success to look at customer experience as an ongoing bell curve – the peaks are the in person interactions (or customer purchases) but the experience begins, and continues afterward on-line… and then peaks again with another purchase (that is… if you are doing it right!) Remember in our information overloaded and short attention span world, out of sight is out of mind… you don’t want to be out of mind and a customer focused presence on Facebook can help. Below are some tips to help you SHINE on Facebook so your customers feel connected even when they can’t be with you. If you do it well, they will feel loved and appreciated, and continue to love you back. More love coming back to you will translate into future sales and positive referrals. WIN!  Set-up Facebook for Customer Service Success When you set-up your Facebook business page there are a number of options for you to choose, which may be confusing to business owners when they are new to Facebook. Local Business options If your business has a physical location, be sure to choose the “local” category for your page....

4 Lessons I Learned from Bad Networking

There is a lot of benefit to networking or relationship building when it is done well, both with our customers and prospects as well as with members of our online or local communities. There are a lot of mistakes made around this concept, however, and it leads to disappointment and mediocre (or bad) results. I see networking as a way to build and strengthen relationships with other people, and it should not be approached solely as a tool to “get” customers or sales.  A “quick hit” mindset will not serve the networker well as building relationships is an ongoing process (don’t all of your relationships evolve over time?). Why would you want to take more of a long term approach? If it is an existing or potential customer, you will be developing trust. As your relationship strengthens, it becomes more likely that they will stay loyal and purchase from you in future. If it is a community member without a need for your services, you may be able to help one another through collaborations or referrals. You can’t always predict where these partnerships will come from, so it is best to stay open and not prejudge anyone as worthy of your networking attention… and give it time for relationships to develop! Bad Networking… don’t be “THAT Networker” You know the ones that I mean, right? Every gathering or online group has at least one… 1.  The “I’m going to win the race!” Networker Are you familiar with the “who can give out (or collect) the most business cards” race?  These folks can be spotted by the fast pace with which they move around the...

8 Reasons to Use WordPress for Your Business Website

One of the first marketing questions new business owners and entrepreneurs have to tackle is what they should do, or use for a website. Because many small business owners and start-ups are on tight budgets, many lean toward do-it-yourself options; and the confusion over what to choose is understandable given the predominance of do-it-yourself platforms out there.  Deciding on a website provider or website creation tool is a big decision; and the process of creating a website frequently includes a lot of time and energy as well as money (because even if you do it yourself, your time is valuable!). The worst possible scenario is to go down the wrong path and end up having to start from scratch soon afterward… just one of the reasons to use WordPress! It is a “best bet” for nice looking, high functioning and user friendly websites. The Difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org My recommendation is always the WordPress.org option which is “self-hosted”. This means that you have the freedom to buy hosting anywhere for your website files to reside on.  This is an important reason to consider WordPress.org over most of the other “do-it-yourself” applications as well. These require that you to host your website with them, and you can’t move it or (in many cases) make a copy of the files. In essence, you don’t have control over the website and have limited flexibility if you want to change something in their design templates or add functionality. 8 Reasons to Use WordPress & Why WordPress Rocks 1. It’s free and easy to learn and use. You will have to buy a domain (which you should do for branding purposes anyway...

7 Winning Ways to Grow Your Business Without Selling or Advertising

If you are brand new in business, you are probably looking for your first leads and customers, in which case prospecting or advertising can be effective tools to accelerate the process of trying to grow your business. But if you own or run a business that has been around for a little while, the primary focus of your time and marketing dollars should not be on getting more leads or more new customers… Why Customer Retention is More Important than New Customer Acquisitions It is less expensive to keep the customers you have… You have heard this before, but based on the frenzy of “get more leads and customers” hype that I see online, I think it bears repeating. The customers that you already have are five times less expensive to keep, than the cost of acquiring new customers. Research shows that a mere 5% increase in your customer retention rate can increase your profitability by 5%-95%!   Your past customers are also 50% more likely to try new products and will spend 31% more money per transaction than a new prospect . (stats from Invesp) Word of Mouth is Marketing GOLD Positive recommendations, reviews and general buzz from your (happy) past customers is the crowning achievement for most businesses; and a reputation of this type will lead to financial success. Everyone prefers and trusts “social proof” over cold market advertising. We all want to know that a business is worthy of our patronage and recommendations from friends, family or others that we trust will carry more weight in the decision process to try a new business, every time. Repeat business is a lucrative opportunity...

Why and How to Use a Facebook Personal Profile for Building Business Connections

  Have you ever wondered why some businesses have a Facebook business page and others just use a personal profile? Or do you wonder how these folks (or you!) could possibly manage a separation of business and personal if using a personal profile for business? OR (and it’s OK if this is you, we won’t judge!) do you wonder what the heck I am talking about when I blabber on about profiles and pages? Hang out here with me for a few minutes, and all will be made clear. What is the Difference Between a Facebook Profile & a Facebook Business Page? In a nutshell, a profile is for a person! According to Facebook, “personal profiles are for non-commercial use and represent individual people”.  In other words, it is against Facebook policies to utilize a personal profile for sales or promoting your business, and you should never use a business name (that is not also a person’s name) on a profile. You are also limited to 5000 “friends” on a personal profile. A page would be used for a business, brand or organization and has no limit to the number of “Likes” that it can acquire. Check out this post for a  detailed explanation and other benefits of why you would want to set-up a Facebook business page. Reasons a Personal Profile Might be Used for Business Yes, I do realize that I just told you that you can’t use your profile for conducting business… HOWEVER… If your name is your brand, customers or clients may be looking to connect with you on your personal profile. You can choose not to do this,...

Is Twitter Worth Your Time? What Every Small Business Owner Should Know

The question that many business operators are asking these days, is no longer IF they should use social media. The questions of the day are which social platforms they should be using, and how they should make the most out of them (with limited time and resources). There are many social media platforms to choose from, and the worst possible plan is to jump into all of them at once. Social media can be time consuming, and no one (without a marketing team) can do it all, well. An Introduction to Twitter Twitter is a “microblogging site” that has been around since 2006. To use it, content to be shared on twitter has to be conveyed in 140 characters or less. It is known for, and become popular as, a way to share things in “real time”. Twitter currently has around 200 million active users (approximately 18% of the adult on-line population is on Twitter). That doesn’t sound like a lot when you compare it to Facebook’s whopping 1.06 billion active users, so you may be wondering why you should bother… The two platforms are actually very different and frequently brands utilize them for different reasons. The question to ask yourself really should be whether some of those 200 million active users are your target audience and whether there is a good reason for you to engage with them there… chances are, they are and there is! Why Small Businesses Use Twitter 70% of small and medium sized businesses have accounts on twitter. Here are some of the best reasons to jump into the twittersphere: Listening & Research – Twitter...

7 Smart Ways to Improve Focus in a Work from Home Office Environment

As the calendar rolled into another year, a lot of business operators and entrepreneurs made time to reflect on where their efforts fell short and what they plan to work on in the coming weeks and months. There are many worthy objectives that a business person can target to propel them toward success, and what is right for each individual will depend on a lot of factors. Personality and past success and failures will all contribute toward the formation of this year’s business goals. Last year I tried to summarize my vision into just 3 words: focus, consistency, & value. I ended with mediocre success as I lost focus and stretched myself between too many competing priorities. So now, I plan to circle back to that one elusive but important goal… Focus! Most People Struggle with FOCUS I recently read an article on Fast Company that discussed the science behind why our minds wander. Yes, there is a reason behind it, it happens to most of us, and there are techniques that you can use to improve your focus. According to the research psychologist Peter Killeen, we all have a finite attention window and should structure our workflow with this in mind. He went on to say: Work is a series of sprints — and to be our most productive and most creative, we need to unplug throughout our work days. Working Around Distractions of a Home Office Most business owners and operators are aware that there are many potential distractions during a work day. Even without the disruption of office mates or the happy challenge of working around...

Time to Review Your Small Business Marketing Plan

So it’s a new year – time for reflection on what worked last year, and how to improve your business this year, right? So have you reviewed and adjusted your marketing efforts for the coming year? If you are reading this in the beginning of January, you probably have just redone your marketing plan, or have it on your list of “to dos” for the coming week. That is a great start; but in the case of most small to mid-size business operators, reevaluating the plan has not been given serious thought since this time last year.  And that is far too long. Technology changes almost daily – reviewing and tweaking digital marketing efforts in 2014 needs to happen on a regular basis. Digital Marketing Plan Updates Even if it is does not make the top of your list weekly, I want to challenge you to review your ongoing digital marketing efforts monthly.  Then don’t forget to tweak them and move forward with your adjusted plans. Three Reasons You Should Review Your Small Business Marketing Plan Often: 1. Fresh in Mind It is always a best practice to review your success and failures when they are fresh in your mind. This is especially true if your marketing source tracking is not as sophisticated as it could be (you know — you ask the staff if anyone came in and mentioned that ad you ran…). 99% of the time, the feedback will be more accurate if you and your staff can remember the promotion that you are trying to evaluate. 2. Reality differs from Plan Even the most professional, well thought...

Email Marketing is not Dead – Four Reasons to Include Email in Your Marketing Strategies

Have you heard that email marketing is “dead” and only used by old school, uncool marketers who are stuck in the 20th century? Is email going (or gone) the way of printed yellow pages, direct mail and radio spots? I frequently speak with small business owners who are anxious to improve their internet marketing presence and overall effectiveness, and I continue to be surprised at how few consider email as a valuable tool. It’s true that it is not as trendy as Facebook or other social media tools, and it is clearly not as cool as SMS (text messaging) and other “newer” mobile marketing components… But there are times when older is still better (disclaimer – I am “old”, so may be a bit biased). Although the effectiveness of email marketing has diminished slightly over the past few years (while social media and mobile are on the rise), here are some facts you should consider before discounting this often misunderstood marketing ingredient. Email Subscribers are the True “LIKES” Although most of us would like to have more Facebook fans, it is fairly easy for someone to “LIKE” your page and forget about you. With the CAN-SPAM Act and double opt-in subscription methods, the people on your email list have more than likely gone through a process of 2 or 3 steps to subscribe to your updates. In other words, they really want to hear from you! Email Campaigns Reach a High Percentage of Your List In this day of mobile technology, not only does everyone check email but many of us check it frequently, even when we are out...

Five Reasons to Consider Blogging for Your Small Business

It is spring on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and what that means for those that live here, is a flurry of activity. Seasonal businesses get ready to open and year round businesses get ready… well, to be really busy. For me this means a very full “to do list”, more priorities to juggle and blogging that gets bumped down the list. Since launching my first small business blog 4 years ago, I have struggled with the time and creative energy demands of a small business blog, versus the attractive benefits. In this post, I will revisit all of the advantages of blogging; and hope to convince a few of you currently on the fence to jump over (as well as solidifying my own commitment to a task that frequently does not find it’s way to the top of the list). 1. Blogging for Search Engine Optimization The claim that blogging can give your website a boost in the search engines is the first reason that most business owners consider. It is well documented that the blog posts will be indexed by the search engines and improve your site’s visibility for the keywords focused on in your post. This in turn leads to more traffic to your website. In addition, search engines love fresh content and a blog gives you the perfect opportunity to get new information out there that your customers and prospects are likely to care about. One word of caution however – In order to take advantage of this perk, it is important for your blog to be a part of your website. 2. Honing your...

The Secret to Handling Customer Complaints

At the center of every successful marketing strategy, is stellar customer service. But no matter how amazing your product and customer service is, it is inevitable that one day the dreaded customer complaint will happen.  Do you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear that there is someone demanding to speak to the owner, and they don’t look happy?  Ever think about leaving through the back door? (Just kidding! None of us would do that…). Fear no more! With these tips in mind, you can push forward and face your fears (and their criticism) with confidence. Listen to your Customer and Remember the 4 G’s Listening is a rare and underutilized skill (that’s a whole other blog post!).  When approached by an unhappy customer, remember to focus on what they are saying rather than how you will defend yourself. It helps to remember the four G’s in this situation.  Treat it as a Gift, and be Grateful, Graceful, and Genuine in your response.  It will make listening easier to do. Complaints are a Gift  An unhappy customer is not your worst nightmare — a silent, unhappy customer is! Not only will they not patronize your business again, they probably will not be silent to their friends about their disappointment when they get home. You cannot fix something that you don’t know is broken.  Requesting, listening, and reacting to ongoing feedback is a critical tool for being able to exceed customer expectations. So the next time you receive criticism, remember that it is a gift — they are giving you the opportunity to fix...

The Art of Selecting Marketing Ingredients for a Small Business

Are you confused about where to focus your marketing energy first? Have you heard that social media is the new way to market? What about optimizing your website for the Search Engines or those email addresses that you’ve been collecting for years? As a small business marketer, you probably can’t afford to do everything. If you are struggling with where to begin, I have the solution for you. It all starts with your content strategy. What is your brand’s story? It has always been the goal of good marketing to communicate the brand’s message. Now, there are many more outlets through which to spread that message; but the idea of messaging hasn’t changed. Your brand’s story needs to be consistent and the methods used to communicate it should be integrated. One method is not enough (sorry!); but with a well planned strategy to leverage your content through multiple channels, you can optimize your time and reach. Many marketing ingredients rely on each other, working in synergy to be most effective. Here are five examples, to help organize your campaign planning. Integrating Your Same Content in Multiple Channels Saves Time & Improves Effectiveness 1. Start with your website. It should be professional and convey who you are and why a potential customer should consider you. Do you already have a well crafted web site? It won’t do you any good if no one can find it. Your website should be the home base for your messaging, but after you create it, the traffic won’t just automatically come. You can optimize it by adding great content regularly in your blog, and...

Facts About Facebook Profiles vs. Business Pages for Small Business

Many small biz operators talk about using Facebook as part of their marketing strategy, but few businesses really seem to understand the nuances or take the time to do it well. In this post, I will quickly outline the difference between having a Business Page vs. a Personal Profile Page for your business. This is the cause of some confusion among new Facebook users in the business community, and there are some important differences that it is worth taking the time to understand. 6 Reasons a Business should not set-up a Profile Page First and foremost, it is against Facebook policy to set-up a Profile Page for a business. A business that sets up as a profile page runs the risk of having their page shut down by Facebook, because Facebook policy specifies that profiles are strictly for personal use. Even if your business is your personal brand, your Profile Page can not be used for commercial purposes; but there are other compelling reasons to go with a Business Page as well. Business Pages are indexed in the search engines, but Profile Pages are not. So if you have a Business Page, there is the possibility of it being found when someone searches for your business in a search engine, outside of Facebook. In addition, anyone who does not have a Facebook Profile, will still be able to pull-up and view a Facebook Business Page. This is not the case with Profiles. Facebook Profiles are restricted on the number of friends that it can have, whereas a Facebook Business Page can have an unlimited number of Fans. Facebook analytics...

Time to Grow More Ears? Listening to Customers

Are You Listening to Your Customer? One of the first pillars of marketing is to know your target audience or customer. Have you had a conversation with your customer lately, to really know what they want? And are you reacting, to make sure they are able to find and get it easily? Knowing what you think your customers will want is just the first step in any business development process. If you did your market research when starting out, that’s great; but consumers are a fickle bunch. If you are not asking (or listening when they tell you) on an ongoing basis, you could be left behind when the next boat sails. The good news is that there are now more opportunities than ever to “hear” your customers. It is an ideal situation if you are a hands-on local business owner and able to speak with your customers frequently. Find out how you are doing at meeting their needs, then don’t forget to listen when they respond, and react to the constructive criticism. Actively Solicit Customer Feedback If you manage a larger business, you can make a point of soliciting feedback through your service staff or customer service surveys; but with the popularity of the internet, this is just the beginning of the opportunities. You can ask customers for their feedback directly, or create surveys within Facebook, your website, or your email platform. On-line reviews are also a crucial area to pay attention to, as well as social media platforms. In fact, it will also really help your on-line visibility and reputation to encourage your happy customers to leave reviews...

Facebook Graph Search Adds Another Reason for Local Businesses to be on Facebook

Recently, I outlined some of the common misperceptions about Facebook that small business marketers have. After reading it, you may have wondered why you should bother… is Facebook really a marketing tool that you should be investing time and money into? The prevailing sentiment among marketing experts is a resounding “yes”. And now, with the introduction of Facebook Graph Search, there is another reason to be on Facebook. Facebook Graph Search will benefit Local Businesses In case you are not familiar with Facebook Graph Search, it is still in beta, but will be a new way to search for things while in Facebook. Graph Search is being heralded as the third main element of their platform — right along with the Newsfeed and Timeline. With that kind of introduction, it doesn’t sound like a tool that local businesses will be able to afford to ignore for long! Graph Search will analyze the connections between your friends and the local businesses that they have liked (or hobbies, interests, etc.), and will produce unique, personalized results for your search. Having a local business page (with your physical address listed) will help your business be found within Facebook. It will also make it more important to not only gain customer “likes”, but to encourage them to check-in, recommend you, and/or tag photos to your business page. I will post more about optimizing local Facebook business pages for Graph Search after it is out of beta and we have had a chance to play with it. If Graph Search isn’t enough to entice you into the joys and perils of Facebook, here are some other compelling...

7 Deadly Sins of Small Business Marketing

Let’s face it… marketing a small business is just different than marketing a big business, and sometimes it feels like none of the same rules apply. Yes, I agree that your resources are much smaller; but I feel the need for some clarifications. The basic marketing “rules” may bend but are not to be broken! Check out these common small business marketing misunderstandings, and make sure you’re not guilty of any of these transgressions. SIN #1 – “My business is too small to have a marketing plan. I don’t have money to spend on marketing.” Advertising is just one form of marketing and good marketing doesn’t always have to be purchased. Positive word of mouth is the best form of marketing and it’s “free”. Some of the most important aspects of marketing are listening to your customers’ (and prospects’) wants and providing them with the best customer service and value proposition in the market. Regardless of budget, every business should have a plan for how it will be marketed. SIN #2 – “Being on-line doesn’t make sense for us – all of our business is done at a physical location”. If this is you, you might want to check out these reasons why every business should be on-line. If your customers are looking on-line, you want them to find you there, even if you just offer your phone number and directions to your store. If you can’t be found on-line, your competitors will be there making it easy for your prospects and winning their business. SIN #3 – “I can’t do anything about bad customer experiences & on-line reviews.”...

New Marketing Resolutions or Just Words?

Are you someone that makes resolutions for the new year? How’s that going for you? Resolutions have gotten a bum rap, primarily due to the sheer number of resolutions that have fallen by the wayside by Feb. 1. That’s why I just don’t make them anymore! This year, I am following the advice of one of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, who suggests that we thoughtfully select 3 words to summarize our direction for the year. Words to market by So, I thought I would share my three words for 2013 since they are so relevant to the world of small business marketing. Putting it in writing holds me accountable, right? After much deliberation, I am targeting: value, focus, and consistency. For me (and many others, I would guess), all three can be applied to my personal life, as well as business. Value – I strive to value the great people and situations that surround me, as well as bringing value to them. I also  believe that giving something of value should be a primary goal in every business — regardless of the employee or entrepreneur’s work ethic, a business will fail if the product or service is not perceived as valuable to others. How does this relate to our marketing? If we want to keep happy customers and acquire new ones through positive word of mouth, it all starts with delivering value to that customer. Focus – It is so easy in this “information overloaded” world to be distracted from our objectives. Being able to give a goal  or task your full attention, and get it done, is...