The Blogger's New Groove

I love summer for many reasons- the long hours of daylight, change in routine, warm weather—to name just a few. And as the famous song, “Summertime” from Porgy & Bess so aptly put it, “… the time when the living is easy.”

And so, it’s no wonder why late August brings up a lot of feelings. After all, I’m still coming back to reality after a wonderful week of vacation. I’m finding the back-to-school supplies lining store shelves haunting, and frankly, the approach to Labor Day weekend is a bit unnerving. Not to mention it feels like all the forces in the world are converging, trying their hardest to shake me back into high gear.

I’ve decided to take the bull by the horn. I’ve decided over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to take a proactive approach to help get back into the groove. It’s kind of the summer version of new year’s resolutions. Here they are:

6 Easy Steps to Refresh this Blogger’s Groove:

1. Utilize Reports for Unearthing Data: Thoroughly review the google analytic reports of our company website, analyze the WordPress reports for the Impressions through Media blog. In particular, I’m going to take notice of the keywords our visitors used to find the site, where the traffic comes from, average time a visitor spends on the site, which are our most popular posts, what are our inbound/outbound links. Based on what I discover, I’m going make any necessary tweaks to our editorial focus and calendar to ensure our blog is meeting the needs and expectations of our returning and new visitors.

2. Catch-up on RSS feeds I didn’t read while on vacation. Since I follow many feeds, there are a lot of them. I’m planning to dedicate 30-60 minutes a day until I’m all caught up!

3. Assess Google Alerts: I receive multiple google alerts on a daily basis which help me to keep up in the social media world. I plan to re-evaluate and see whether these topics are continuing to serve me, whether they can/should be replaced with others. I receive them all daily, and it may be that some would work just as well or even better weekly (freeing up my inbox a little.)

4. Re-visit Blogroll: There are several authors for the Impressions blog, and over the past year our blogroll has gotten significantly larger. I plan to check the links to make sure everything is working properly, and determine with my colleagues if these are our current favorites or if we want to make any changes.

5. Sign Up for a Webinar, or in-person conference to help get the juices flowing. I’ve already signed up for Social Media Marketing: An effective way to engage your customers and stimulate your prospects!

6. Maintain the summertime “living is easy” attitude as long as I possibly can. When I find it beginning to slip away, I’m going to start thinking about where I’d like to go with my family next summer.

What’s on your list for getting back into the groove?

Email Newsletters: Too Young to Retire

Newsletters feel personal because they arrive in your inbox;
you have an ongoing relationship with them.
-Jakob Nielsen, September 30, 2002

two adirondack chairs on Maine coast

Sometimes with the web changing so rapidly, a comment made in 2002, such as the one above by Jakob Nielsen, (whose been called the “guru of web page usability” and “the next best thing to a true time machine”) could sound like ancient history. In my opinion, Jakob Nielsen called a spade a spade.

The focus on web 2.0 and social networking often neglects to mention our old friend, email newsletters —and the importance in continuing to use them as part of a company’s marketing mix.

In a recent Forrester webinar with B2B marketers, Laura Remos and Dan Klein asked their participants, “Which digital, social media tactics do you use currentlv?” 2/3 of the participants rated email newsletters at the top of their list, with webinars following close behind. Only 35% or fewer reported using blogs, online forums, video produced by marketing, podcasts, customer contributed content, or other Web 2.0 tactics.

Emal Newsletter Best Practices

A recent post on the blog, The Email Wars, called email marketing, “the magic ingredient… the critical component to social media. It is the fuel that will drive your campaign or community.” So what about this question regarding email newsletters and how they’re fairing with newer social media? I don’t believe it’s an either or situation. As Nielsen put it so eloquently, email newsletters are personal. That hasn’t changed. In fact, email newsletters compliment and work harmoniously with the company’s website, blog, online forums and other Web 2.0 tactics. They help companies in their efforts to build and maintain relationships, communicate with clients and prospects all at once; or in carefully segmented lists.

To create a successful email newsletter:

1. Develop a schedule, e.g. monthly, quarterly– and stick to it.

2. Remind customers and prospects about what your company has to offer them.

3. Make your newsletter permission-based, always giving the recipient the ability to opt-out.

4. Make the most of the newsletter’s hyperlinks–point readers to your website, blog, facebook page, and any other place where your company has a presence.

5. Expand on a topic you wrote about in your blog (or vice versa).

6. Experiment with new material. Content is still king e.g. your readers may like when you provide how-to articles, review an industry book, include a list of upcoming events.

7. Remember content needn’t be restricted to the written word, it takes many forms–images, videos, podcasts, social networking, social bookmarking, and micro-blogging.

8. Use analytics software for information about newsletter open rates, opt-outs, bounced, number of click-throughs.

9. Set realistic goals. Keep in mind that open rates may vary according to industry e.g. newsletters about marketing, publishing & media and technology typically have open rates between 20%-30%. Newsletters for manufacturing, non-profit, travel, art, government, and religious audiences have been reported as having open rates as high as 40%.

10. Remember your audience, write in a congenial style, avoid jargon. Keep it brief, able to read in a few minutes.

Above all, work with your email newsletter and ensure it’s well integrated into your marketing mix. If it’s gotten old and too predictable, then breathe new life into it.

Whatever you do, please don’t eliminate the email newsletter—it’s much too young to retire.

Tell us—are you using B2B email newsletters? We’re interested in hearing about your experiences integrating them into your social media marketing mix.

Making their official impressions in media

A word is a word, of course of course–that is to say, a word may be used even when it isn’t in a dictionary or thesaurus.

And sometimes it takes awhile before our reference books catch–up to our new lexicons, officially making their impressions in media. In June, the Associated Press announced 200 new entries for the 2008 edition of the AP Stylebook, the essential handbook for all writers, editors, students and public relations specialists.

These are some of the new AP Stylebook entries which caught my eye:

  • anti-spyware
  • high-definition
  • iphone
  • outsourcing
  • podcast
  • snail mail
  • social networking
  • text messaging
  • Wikipedia

Whew, I feel a lot better knowing they’re part of the new style book–thought you might, too.

Now I’m wondering about Webster’s Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the Oxford English Dictionary. For you word buffs out there you may be interested in a new book entitled Reading the OED: One Man One Year , 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea.

Kind of makes you wonder what other everyday words are missing from our reference books and online resources? You know of any you’d like to share?

Marketers Face Roadblocks while Navigating the New Media Highway

Wiki Ways
Road Block
Late last month, Marketing Sherpa featured a case study on How to Use Wikipedia Entries for Lead Gen. A company named Attensa submitted the case and boasted about the 4% increase in their website traffic and 18% higher conversion rate.

Shortly thereafter, Attensa’s page was removed from Wikipedia for abusing Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest policy and their Neutral Point of View Policy. Both the company and their media agency defended their contributions as valuable content that is not unlike other content existing on the site. Unfortunately, by posting their approach on Marketing Sherpa, they got burned.

To find other examples of infringement of these policies, I searched on a current release movie, Wall E, and found an in depth promotion of the flix. This post is a clear promotion of the movie and Pixar. Additional searches turn up Microsoft and IBM, with detailed pages featuring their logos and links to their websites. Hmmm. Am I missing something here? Is this about who posts the information? I am not sure that it’s realistic to analyze the motivations of every poster to this giant content site.

Perhaps Wikipedia yanked their content because the company admitted it was marketing strategy and their motivation for increasing their site traffic. How does one distinguish Attensa’s approach from the likes of IBM? The folks at Marketing Sherpa admit that there is ongoing confusion about how marketers can participate at Wikipedia and promise to report on developments as they happen.

Blog Backlash

In another story , Paul Gillin reported on a Forrester report in B-to-B Magazine last month that the misuse of blogs as a press release library is causing a backlash for corporate blogging. If the key goal of a blog were solely to raise your position in the search engines, this approach would be effective.

But blogs are about community discussion. No one is going to discuss your press release. They probably aren’t even going to read it. Alternatively, the corporate blog is a great place to open discussion about a customer service issue, in straight language, by real people. Gillin gives kudos to HP, General Motors and Marriott for having figured out how to use blogging to engage customers in honest and open dialog.

We Are Still Learning

The point of these stories is that we are still learning to use these new media tools successfully, and with new frontiers, there will be pioneers who learn the hard way what doesn’t work. These are the challenges and adventures of new media marketing. At the risk of sounding promotional, this blog is a good starting place to learn what some of those things are. Our blog roll provides you with many more.

As always, keep your ears open and enjoy the ride.

That one simple question: Do you know the answer?

I’m pretty sure we all understand the importance of talking to our customers.  But, how often do you talk to your customers?  Maybe once a year?   Perhaps once a month?   And, how do you talk to them?   Is it a phonecall, some type of survey or possibly an in-person meeting?   Most importantly, what do you talk to your customers about?

Most of us have either been involved in producing or responding to lengthy customer satisfaction surveys that seek to “better understand the customer” and “increase customer loyalty.”   Unfortunately, these same surveys are notoriously ineffective when it comes to boosting customer loyalty - with poor response rates, alienated customers, and lackluster data.

Imagine if you could ask your customers just one simple question that could fuel unprecedented customer loyalty and determine your business’ future.   This concept, termed Net Promoter Score (or NPS) focuses on asking this one question – Would you recommend us to a friend? – in a regular, systematic and timely manner. 

In his new Harvard Business School Press book, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth , Fred Reichheld, introduces NPS as the radical new tool that is being rapidly deployed by leading firms to transform ordinary customers into promoters – the drivers of sustainable growth.

NPS is based on the premise that your customers can be divided into three unique segments based on their response to the “ultimate question” given a 0-10 point scale (with 0 being very unlikley and 10 being extremely likely).

  • Promoters – loyal enthusiasts who keep buying and urge their friends to do the same
  • Passives – satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are easily wooed by the competition
  • Detractors – unhappy customers trapped in a bad relationship

The NPS is the percentage of customers whose answers identify them as promoters minus the percentage whose response indicates they are detractors.

NPS = % promoters – % of detractors

According to Netpromoter.com, efficient growth companies such as Amazon.com, eBay, Costco, Vanguard, and Dell operate at NPS efficiency ratings of 50 to 80%; while the average firm sputters along at an NPS efficiency of only 5 to 10%.  

What is your NPS baseline?   If you have your own NPS stories, we’d love to learn more.

What are you doing?

I’ve been hearing a lot about Twitter these days. I should probably clarify –I’ve been reading a lot about it. My friends aren’t sending tweets yet; and my business contacts–some are just beginning to get their feet wet. The thing is, I’m intrigued by the way Twitter has taken off.

Marketing Sherpa describes Twitter in a recent article as a “social networking and micro-blogging service” which can be used for personal use as well as for marketing a company. Twitter is being used by “hundreds of thousands of people and companies, including several presidential candidates….”

Twitter text message have a 140-character-limit text box (about 25-30 words), and revolve around the question: “What are you doing?” Like other social media, some people are using it to communicate valuable messages and some– well let’s say are twittering to their heart’s content. Not only am I intrigued by Twitter’s rapid growth—I’m fascinated by the question which drives it.

As long as I can remember, people have asked, “What are you doing?” Parents, teachers, bosses, friends—my husband, my daughter. I’m sure people asked the same question of famous influential people like Christopher Columbus. Or say, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi–to name a few.

To be honest, at times the question “What are you doing?” feels like an invasion. You’re sitting there in the privacy of your own home, the phone rings and someone says, “Hi, what are you doing?” Or what about those lazy days of summer, when you could be out swimming, walking, bike riding, weeding your garden and even working, and instead you’re lying on a hammock– someone comes along and asks, “What are you doing?”

Of course, tone of voice matters here. The question can sound judgmental, inquisitive, loving, concerned. I guess when you get right down to it, nothing against Twitter here, but I’m more interested in questions like, what matters to you? What are your values? Purpose in life? Business’ mission? Don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in what people are doing. But do I want or need a blow-by-blow description, 24/7?

Marketing Sherpa advises business users to, “Keep posts valuable…find out what interests other Twitterers… make it something your followers might benefit from knowing as well.”

The words which drove this post come from a real-life example from yesterday after I read an editorial in the Sunday Boston Globe by Ed Siegel (okay it wasn’t a tweet). My point being, it was a mere fifteen characters, two words beginning with the letter E– “Enjoy Everything”, which helped to turn my outlook for the day 180-degrees. I think it’s fair to say if I’m still thinking about them today, then they may have had a more lasting effect.

If you’re going to take the time and effort to twitter about what you’re doing, make your messages count— really count.

photo credit: jaysk