Archive for the 'Business' Category

8 Essential Marketing Tools You Need to Start Using Today

There never seems to be enough time in the day for a professional services marketer. In my constant battle to get more things done in less time I have learned to leverage an extensive arsenal of tools to improve my efficiency.  These are not tools most all of us have heard of, such as Google Alerts, OneNote, and Hootsuite but rather others I have discovered over years of trial and exploration. The key behind using any of these types of tools is to ensure that the value gained far exceeds the effort spent using the tool.  With time I have found that some tools simply are not worth the effort, while others have become vital to my job and to our firms’ success. While there are dozens of tools we could look at, I wanted to share with you 8 tools that you are probably not using today that I believe will make you a more effective marketer:

Media tracking and monitoring – mention.com

In my role I need to know immediately when our firm’s name is in the news or in an online publication. As many of you know Google changed their formula for the popular Google Alerts several years ago and it is no longer sending you every mention in the news, rather it now only shows sources that generally show up in the top 100 search results. I spent months looking for a tool that would send me up-to-the-minute updates whenever Timmons Group was mentioned on the web to replace Google Alerts and found it with the tracking and monitoring service mention.com. If you search the site long enough you will find a basic version of the service that is free. With Mention you will get an email, usually within minutes, whenever your firm’s name has been posted online, ensuring that you are the first to see your name in the news.

Title Capitalization – titlecapitalization.com

I know what you are thinking: what type of marketer doesn’t remember how to perfectly utilize AP style or Chicago Manual formatting on titles? The answer is me. It might be simple, but titlecapitalization.com easy a fast and easy way to copy-cut-past in a title and copy-cut-paste it back to Power Point, Word, Prezi, InDesign, or anywhere else you want.

Google PageSpeed – developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Your website is running slow, and Google knows why (Google knows everything). Google has hundreds of tools for web developers, that anyone can use, and one of my favorites is PageSpeed. It is buried under the speed optimization tools in their developer’s toolbox so just search for it or use the link above. What you’ll find is a measure of your websites page load speed and specific actions you can take to speed it up if it is running slow.

Camtasia – camtasia.com

It was bound to happen, I was going to share a tool with you that costs money (all of them up to now have free options). There are hundreds of video editing software platforms available, but this one is easy, affordable, and can do just about everything without switching between multiple products to get your video completed. It does all of the normal video editing things you would expect, but is also provides screen capturing, it has a cell phone app for capturing video, allows for editing multiple tracks, and even has advanced volume leveling capabilities to balance out voices that always seem too loud or too quiet.

Website page monitoring: visualping.io

If you have ever checked a website every day for weeks waiting for an RFP to come out then you need Visualping. The website monitors webpages for you and will send you an email whenever there is a change on the page. I have found this to be especially helpful for websites that only publish RFPs once or twice a year, but that we have to check weekly to make certain nothing is missed. Simply set up an alert and get an email whenever a procurement webpage has updated or changed. Try it out, trust me this website can save you an extra 30 minutes of time every week, and yes it works for any type of webpage.

Graphic Design: canva.com

It’s true, we do not have a graphic designer on our marketing team, but give us some amazing templates and software that is easy to use and you’d be impressed what we come up with. Canva is not a replacement for InDesign or Photoshop, but what is does is give you the tools and templates to ensure that your marketing looks great. Give Canva a try if you are not a graphic designer but want to ensure that what you create looks great.

Website monitoring service: montastic.com

Websites go down and Montastic will ensure that you are the first to know so that you can do something about it before anyone else knows it is down. I have used several services over the years for website monitoring but finally stuck with Montastic because it is free, allows multiple people to be notified, and even sends SMS text alerts. Just be forewarned, Montastic is great at website monitoring, but they are not great at designing the layout of their own website, it is ugly.

Website link checker: cloudtrawl.com

Once a year I have gotten into the habit of cleaning up our corporate website. Over the course of a year you would be amazed how many links on your website get broken and how many images are no longer available. These broken links impact your Google ranking. Most of the time this occurs with links to external websites, but it also happens when someone inadvertently makes changes inside the website. Cloudtrawl sends web crawlers throughout your website to check every link and every image on your website. About an hour after you start the process Cloudtrawl will send you a report identifying every broken link on your website. You can pay for an annual subscription, but I typically just sign up for the free trial once a year. In two weeks you can get just about everything fixed and then you can sign up for a free trial again the next year.

I hope that some of these tools help you get more done with less effort as well, and if you have another tool to share please be certain to share them with me on LinkedIn.

 

Advertisements

Corporate Character

“Corporate Character is the intellectual and moral qualities that distinguish one company from another.” If you were to look at a ‘best value’ bid in Arlington County, VA you would find the following evaluation criteria used to award contracts: “(the County considers) the character, integrity, reputation, judgment, experience, and efficiency of the bidder.” Did you catch that, your clients are interested in the character of your company, not just your fee. They want to know the quintessence of who you are, your reputation, and why you’re the best; they want to understand your Corporate Character.

Inside and Out
Your Corporate Character is made up of hundreds of things that can be separated into two categories: how you are viewed (external) and who you are (internal). The external attributes of your Corporate Character are easy to understand and easy to change, they include your brand, public relations, reputation, sales, and customer service. The internal attributes of your Corporate Character are much more complicated, they include your corporate culture, integrity, honesty, judgment, moral standard, and experience.

Wrapping Paper on a Bad Gift
The external attributes of your Corporate Character are easy to change, but like wrapping paper on a bad gift, they only cover the underlying problem temporarily. To truly change how your company is viewed in the marketplace you must start by changing the internal attributes of your Corporate Character.

Your Corporate Character
It is the inside out approach to changing Corporate Character that builds a company which your clients will want to work with, one that has the “character, integrity, reputation, judgment, experience, and efficiency” to be trusted.

Geographic Expansion Lessons Learned

CharlotteSkylineBelow is a summary I wrote after interviewing multiple partners at design firms related to their thoughts on what makes a branch office (geographic expansion) successful.  No rocket science here, just the summary of conversations with firm owners about what the keys are to a successful branch office.  What would you add to the list?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Geographic Expansion Lessons Learned

Based on interviews with partners at design firms pertaining to office expansions.

Lessons Learned:

  1. The right person leading the charge is the most important factor in the success of a new branch office.
  2. Two key people are needed for a geographic expansion, a Rainmaker (someone that can bring new work in the door) and a Principal Designer.
  3. An expansion needs to be viewed in a positive light both from the new office, as well as the existing offices.  A geographic expansion should provide multiple people with opportunity for growth throughout the company.
  4. The right combination of people is the key ingredient to a successful geographic expansion.
  5. When a new office opens it is not “business as usual,” individuals opening a new office must be prepared to work 2-3 nights per week becoming involved in the local community and in the industry.
  6. Responsibility and autonomy for the new office must be given.  The individuals in that office need to feel as if it is their actions that will result in the success or failure of the office.
  7. Support staff is not critical for the establishment of a new office.

QR Codes: Rules, Response Rates, and Opportunity

I recently began testing the use of QR (Quick Reference) Codes in an effort to see how they could be leveraged as a new marketing tool. I have scanned these square barcode style codes using my smart phone plenty of times before, but usually when reading an advertisement or brochure in an effort to learn more about the product or service being sold. My objective, however, was a bit different: I wanted to see what it would take to transform these codes into a tool that could help me build relationships more effectively for our company, and ultimately bring more work in the door.

If you aren’t familiar with Quick Reference or QR Codes, they were created in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave. You have probably seen these square codes numerous times even if you haven’t ever scanned one. The rapid increase in the use of the codes for marketing is, in part, a result of their ease of use, and because Denso Wave chose to make the codes available for free without licensing requirements. As a result, QR Codes can be easily implemented into a marketing program with less effort than it takes to ensure you have the proper licensing to use a stock photographic image.

Common uses for QR Codes

You have probably seen the codes in numerous places, but throughout our industry and others QR Codes are being leveraged in a number of marketing platforms to provide an additional connection point with clients. The most common uses include:

  • Brochures – QR Codes are often used in brochures as a way for the reader to find additional information. Recently I scanned a code that led to a short YouTube video with additional images and information.
  • Post Cards – An effective post card traditionally has an action for the reader to take. QR Codes can help the reader take those actions even if they don’t have immediate access to a computer.
  • Advertising – Including QR codes in print advertising is increasingly being used to direct potential clients to additional information imbedded in videos or websites. Hickok Cole Architects in Washington, D.C. even started an industry scavenger hunt with QR Codes in a recent advertising campaign.
  • Business Cards – Including a QR Code on the back of your business card can create an easy way for contacts to download your vCard or to connect using social media.
  • Promotional Products – Many companies are having QR Codes printed on promotional products such as t-shirts that are given away at special events and trade shows.

Response Rates and Opportunity

As with any new marketing tool, it is important to start with research into the associated hit rate. A recent study at the Harvard campus showed a response rate of 0.3% when 160 signs that were distributed to gauge a response to the QR code experiment. For comparison purposes, this rate is analogous to the hit rate on your average post card mailing. For the study, half of the signs had instructions on the use of QR Codes and half did not. Notably 60% of the activated codes were from the versions with detailed instruction on how to use the QR Code, indicating that the awareness about QR code usage is still in an embryonic stage. Therein lies the opportunity for marketers to take advantage of this new tool, but it also shows that in order to increase your hit rates it is highly advantageous to provide detailed instructions on the use of QR Codes when using them in marketing.

Knowing the QR Code Rules

As with every marketing tool there are a handful of best practices that every marketer should know to effectively implement the tool. For QR Codes consider the following 5 rules:

  1. Smart-phone friendly – QR Codes are designed to be scanned by smart phones. Don’t send out a post card with a QR Code that leads to a website that is not smart phone friendly.
  2. Keep it short – Every character that you place into a QR Code must be translated into the code, thus be certain you shorten links before creating your code by using a website such as http://bit.ly If you want to use the QR Code for a complex function such as sharing a vCard consider developing a smart-phone friendly webpage that you can embed the vCard in since QR Codes with too many characters will not be readable by every smart-phone.
  3. Provide value – Don’t use QR Codes just because they exist, instead ensure that they provide value or your hit ratio will suffer.
  4. Instructions – Remember the Harvard campus study and give instructions on how to use QR Codes until you are certain that your target audience knows how to use them.
  5. Have fun – Get outside the box with designer QR codes. Check out www.customqrcodes.com for unique QR Code graphics that will set you apart from others in the industry.

Building Relationships: Scan Here to Connect

As I have been experimenting with QR Codes, one of the most successful ways I have used the code is on my business cards. For an industry built on relationships it didn’t take long to discover that using the codes to focus on individuals quickly led to new connections and new project leads. For testing purposes I created a quick smart-phone friendly website (www.TimKlabunde.com) that contains links to all of my social media connect points including LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, my blog Cofebuz, and YouTube. In addition, I created an easy link for visitors to download my vCard. I then created a QR Code at http://qrcode.kaywa.com and imprinted it on the back of my business cards.

The results have been intriguing to say the least. From a website analytics perspective, the hits have been much better than I expected and far better than the Harvard campus study: about 1 in 4 recipients have scanned the code. The true success of the experiment, however, has been the conversations that hatched when I first handed someone my business card. The QR Code has become a topic in-and-of itself, as it opens discussions related to the most effective uses of technology in marketing.

Technology as a Tool

As marketers, we often see new technology like QR Codes and begin to use it just because it exists. The problem is that technology for technology’s sake does not create great marketing. Great marketing happens when tools are leveraged together to meet a predetermined set of objectives, and in our industry that objective must be the establishment and furthering of great relationships.

This article, written by CofeBuz author Tim Klabunde, was published in the August edition of Marketer magazine.

I don’t like networking events

I don’t really like networking events. To be honest, I have been struggling with this over the past several months because no matter what I do it seems that networking has become, and is becoming, a bigger part of my life. I write about networking, speak about networking, coach others on networking, I founded a massively successful commercial network, I have even been a conference keynote speaker presenting on the topic of networking! So how is it then do I not like networking events?

I’m normal. That’s right; most people do not like attending networking events. According to Susan RoAne (Author of Face to Face) 93% of people self identify themselves as “shy,” and networking events are not a happy place for a shy person to be. I have finally come to the conclusion that the reason I have been successful speaking, writing, and building networks is that so many people struggle with the same things I struggled with. I had to work hard to figure out how to succeed at networking by building great friendships (something that anyone can do even without attending networking events). As a result it is really easy for me to explain to other people how to succeed at networking, because I have struggled with the same things.

You are an expert

One amazing thing about life is that our successes are the greatest in areas where we struggle the most. I have read a lot about networking and have come to realize that many of the “experts” are wrong. When I hear someone using “elevator pitch” and “networking” in the same sentence I run (if you are in sales you don’t need to run, these are great sales tools, they are just NOT networking tools). If networking hadn’t been so hard for me, I never would have understood why these things don’t make sense.

Your Turn

What are the areas of your life that you struggled with for years? Did you have to learn management, leadership, or graphics through the school of hard knocks? If so you are probably more of an expert than you ever imagined. If you are open to sharing, there millions of people that need to hear and learn from you, not from someone that was a “natural.” You many never be able to (or desire to) connect with millions, but can you start this week by sharing some of what you have learned with at least one person.

9 Tough Networking Questions

This past week I had the privilege of hosting a training session for David M. Schwarz Architects in Washington DC. After the presentation I offered to answer any and every question about networking that they could throw at me over the following weeks. Needless to say they asked some great questions that I am certain you can relate to:

Q:
When I first moved to DC (almost five years ago now) I was meeting a lot of really great people at all the events that I went to (I had more “spare time” in those days). I lost touch with many of those people as the years have passed, but for many of them, I remember their stories and still have their business cards. Is there a tactful way in which I could contact them now, or is it better to let it be?

A:
There are two foundation stones for a relationship 1) knowing that someone else exists (name recognition) and 2) understanding how they fit into the world around you (develop understanding). If your goal is to expand your relationships then the best place to start is always with people that already know (or have known) you. The goal isn’t to necessarily have lunch with everyone you meet five years ago, but rather to keep these two foundational stones in place. That is one of the goals of this blog, but I also send articles out every once in awhile to people I have met previously. By doing this I am keeping a foundation for our relationship in place, and it is rewarding when I see someone after 5 years and we can “pick up where we left off” because these foundation stones for our relationship are still in place.

Q:
If I walk into an event not knowing anyone, and all people there are already chatting, can I walk up to a small group of people who are already having a conversation and just say hello without coming across as being disruptive/rude? [This is a follow-up to the “I Don’t Know Anyone Survival Basics”]

A.
Look for an excuse to break into the conversation. Do you know the company someone works for? Is anyone wearing a pin on their jacket indicating an Alumni or other affiliation? To “break in” engage one individual in the group with a simple question. Once you are accepted into the group (a split will develop as people open their shoulders to accept you) engage the rest of the group preferably by making a comment on the topic they were previously discussing before you entered.

Q:
If I slip into a conversation like the one mentioned above, and find the subject matter to be from somewhere outside my plane of existence, how long should I just listen without  having anything to add to the conversation? For instance, I often find myself amid conversations about television shows, pop culture icons, or sports. These are all things which I know very little about (and generally also don’t have a whole lot of interest in knowing about).

A:
Never “slip away.” If you want to get out of a conversation have an excuse ready. I often carry around a drink only 25% full, and then if needed one more sip and I need to get a refill “excuse me as I get a refill.” Better yet, is someone else just as bored with the conversation? Invite them to join you or simply split the conversation by asking them a direct question.

Q:
I usually try to plan ahead to avoid this, but I often find myself in an outfit that has no pockets. I generally feel like it would be better not to carry a stack of business cards around in my hand. Would you agree?

A:
It is official, I have been stumped. I can’t remember the last pair of dress pants I bought that didn’t have pockets. Given that you are carrying a purse (or “man bag” for any guys that have found pants without pockets) I would recommend purchasing a business card holder in your purse. Perhaps someone more qualified on this topic can make a better recommendation in the comments section.

Q:
As a young woman, I am fairly attune to who is safe to give my contact information out to, and to whom it is questionable. If I have been giving cards out at an event and then encounter someone to which I would rather not give my business card to, do you have any advice on the best way to decline?

A:
Great question! The key is to bring a relatively limited supply of cards and only hand them out to people you really want to connect with. If you are uncomfortable with someone when they hand you a card simply tell them that “I didn’t bring a lot of cards tonight but I can follow-up with you, thanks.” Another note here is that if this happens often make certain that your cards don’t contain personal information such as your cell phone number. Main business phone numbers are acceptable and expected on business cards.

Q:
My name is unusual. I know this can be good or bad. Will it be insulting for me to write a phonetic spelling on my card when I give it to someone? I feel as though, similar to the days of sending out my resume, people are less likely to call someone if they know they are going to “butcher” the pronunciation of their name.

A:
I am a firm believer in making nametags and business cards easy for others to read, but giving someone the phonetic spelling is probably going too far. Instead of Timothy M. Klabunde, MBA on my cards they simply say Tim Klabunde. You have several options with a unique name, of which my favorite is using a “short” for your professional relationships. For example, if your name is Rhiannon you could use Ann on your cards and nametag. As an added benefit you’ll always know where you stand when someone calls you as your friends will still call you your preferred name.

Q:
Similarly, if I get a business card from someone else, can I write a phonetic spelling or notes on it, or is that considered rude as well? I know in Japanese culture defacing a business card is somewhat likened to a direct personal insult.

A:
Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use the back of the business card to add notes or other information. Unless you have told them you will follow-up on something however it is not acceptable to do so while you are still talking to them.

Q:
In your talk you mentioned the importance of being able to recommend others. This is easy once you know a few people worth recommending, but what if you are just starting out? If someone keeps sending contacts my way and I don’t know anyone that I can recommend to help them with what they do, they might quickly decide that I’m not useful enough to be on their “hot list”.

A:
It is easy to recommend people on your hotlist because they typically start as people you have worked with previously and they are people you enjoy and respect. If you don’t feel that you can recommend anyone, and thus don’t yet have a hotlist, start by working on developing friends in your industry. Get involved on a committee at a local association, invite someone out for coffee, but generally speaking actively seek out new relationships.

Q:
Last year our firm celebrated its 30th anniversary. There were a lot of people a our celebration, but I chose not to talk to very many people for fear that I would say something to the effect of, “So how do you know our firm?” and the answer would be, “I’m David’s brother” or other special honored guest or relative. I don’t mean to be ignorant, but there is some information in my office that just doesn’t reach everyone’s experience. Although I know that I can not avoid being in a situation where I might be expected to know more than I do, my question to you is: was I right or wrong in this particular instance to save my company the embarrassment of me asking questions that clients might expect me to know the answer to?

A:
Nametags. As of today Scott Ginsberg has worn a nametag for the past 3,376 days (not kidding check him out here http://www.hellomynameisscott.com). Scott is a well known author and speaker on approachability, the one thing that has stuck with me after reading many of his articles is that name tags are not intended to help the person wearing them; their entire purpose is to help the other people you meet. (aka: you already know your name) You and many others at the same venue were experiencing a relationship barrier that could have been easily fixed with some simple Avery nametags. Next time have some fun and be the first person to put on a nametag, I guarantee you’d be one of the most popular people at the event because I’m certain you were not the only person that felt that way.

Web 2.0: Marketing by Providing Value

As I noted in a previous post on Web 2.0, marketing on the “new” web is about providing value to prospective customers. I was recently able to connect with Kwame Kuadey of Gift Card Rescue to discuss his web 2.0 strategy.  What I found is that, regardless of your industry, the basic principles of web 2.0 apply.

Kwame began marketing Gift Card Rescue through traditional means: he set-up a website, initiated a branding campaign, and “put a stake in the world wide web’s ground.” What he learned was that the old theory of ‘build it and they will come’ is only partially true. In an effort to increase traffic to Gift Card Rescue’s website he began a blog, Gift Card Blogger. Instead of focusing on his company and what he wanted, he instead decided to provide relevant and important information on gift cards. That’s right, he started providing value to potential customers instead of just his services of buying and selling gift cards without the risk of fraud.

Providing Value Builds Success
Today, over 35% of Gift Card Rescue’s traffic comes directly through his blog, and he believes that a large majority of his other hits are a result of the increased traffic, resulting in better search ratings, due to his blog. In addition, through his blogging and writings Kwame has positioned himself as a leading expert in the gift card industry, a move that will pay public relations rewards many times over throughout the busy holiday seasons.

What you can learn from Gift Card Rescue
Regardless of if you are in marketing in a professional services company, a construction company, or a non-for-profit, you can look at the Gift Card Rescue model and learn three things that will help you to be successful in the Web 2.0 marketing world:

  1. You must begin by developing a strong website, brand, and an easy to navigate web presence.
  2. You need to provide value to your potential customers: You can do this through posting white papers, starting a blog, sending out weekly tips, or just explain the best way to engage a firm that provides your type of product or service. Remember, DO NOT SELL, rather provide relevant and helpful information.
  3. Leverage the value that you are developing and sharing through your website, blog, or network to establish yourself, your company, and/or your product as the best in the field.

Success in a Web 2.0 world
Success in Web 2.0 strategy, be it on LinkedIn, blogging, or as part of an online community such as Civil Engineering Central, must be defined differently than in traditional marketing. For me it is the relationships that I have made as a result of this blog, for others it is public relations, and still for others it is increased name recognition. What is important is that you identify your objectives and then focus your Web 2.0 presence to meet those objectives.