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How to Incorporate Brand Advocates into Your Marketing Strategy

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Holly Cordner – Enjoy!

When asked about how and why they make purchases, most people say that reviews and recommendations play a major role. That holds true even in the B2B marketplace—according to one study, 60 percent of B2B tech buyers look at peer reviews before making buying decisions.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, when it comes to your own purchasing decisions, are you more likely to trust an ad or a person who’s actually used the product?

The question is, how can you boost positive reviews of your business and how should that play into your overall marketing strategy?

Brand Advocates: Generating Buzz

Brand advocates are more than just loyal customers—they’re ambassadors. They’re people who believe in your business and who are willing to answer questions, write blog posts, and help you create favorable word-of-mouth buzz. They can help you by reviewing your products and helping convince leads who may be on the fence about your services to take the plunge.

Who are your advocates? Where can you find them?

Begin by identifying customers who have had a good experience with your brand.

  • Get in touch with people who are interacting with you on social media or on review sites like Yelp.
  • Find customers who’ve given you positive reviews on comment cards or surveys.
  • Ask your salespeople—which customers to they turn to for references? Which customers are most satisfied with their experience?

Try to identify potential advocates on a regular basis—every three to six months or so—to keep your pool fresh.

This should go without saying, but in case it’s not obvious: in order to keep your loyal customer base large and happy, you need to provide consistently great service. It’s not enough to be just “adequate”— most companies do that—you need to “wow” your customers with attention to detail and personalized service. Try to accommodate special requests when you can, and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Setting Up a Brand Advocacy Program

Identifying advocates is only half the battle. You need to decide what to do with them once you’ve found them. Here are some ideas about how you can leverage their power to help maintain a positive image for your brand:

  • Ask them to follow you on social media and comment on and share what you post.
  • Ask them to write positive reviews and testimonials on your site, review sites like Citysearch, or their blog and social media profiles.
  • Ask them if you can film them talking about their experience with your brand.
  • Ask them to contribute to communities or forums.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Ask them to write blog posts or create images for you.
  • Ask them if you can use their experience as a case study.
  • Ask them to speak directly (over the phone or via email or chat) to potential customers.
  • Ask them to come up with FAQ questions and answers or identify improvements for your website.

These are just some of the ways that brand advocates can be put to good use. You should get creative and decide on which strategies will work for your business.

You should probably start small. Ask potential advocates to do something easy at first, like follow you on Instagram or give you a five star rating on Google+, before moving on to bigger projects like testimonials and blog posts. You may also want to consider setting up some sort of rewards or kickback program where advocates get a percentage off, a nominal payment, or free products (à la Amazon Vine) for completing tasks.

You should also invest some time in mentoring and quality control. You should let your advocates be authentic voices for your brand, but you may also want to set some guidelines if, for instance, you plan on connecting brand advocates with potential customers directly.

How about you? How are you leveraging the power of brand advocates in your business?

Holly Cordnerhollycordner is a marketing manager living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Needle, which helps businesses of all sizes identify brand advocates and connect them with customers. Her first love is technology with tofu coming in a close second.

 

Marketing Automation for Small Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Wendy Coombes– Enjoy!

photo credit: iStock Photo

photo credit: iStock Photo

If you are a small business marketer, you know that the number of channels across which to deliver your key messages has increased considerably. While it is great that we have so many opportunities to attract and engage our ideal client, managing multiple channels effectively can seem like a full time job.

This explains why the biggest group of marketing automation buyers are small and midsize businesses. So let’s take a look at this trend and marketing automation’s effectiveness for small business.

What is Marketing Automation?

As businesses realize they need get on board with web marketing strategies, they typically “bolt on” solutions. They open up a Twitter or Facebook account, dabble in LinkedIn groups or do an email shot using a free cloud-based email marketing solution.

Managing communication programs across multiple applications is a logistical nightmare; it lacks overview and the ability to measure its effectiveness.

Marketing automation enables businesses to execute campaigns, automate processes, and measure their impact.

How can you benefit from workflow-based lead management?

The most frequently requested feature of marketing automation solutions is lead management. Leads are the lifeblood of business, so it is easy to see why marketers consider lead generation their biggest challenge and most important goal. Marketing automation assists in a number of ways.

First, to attract on the web you need valuable and optimized content. The best marketing automation platforms let you create:

  • optimize site pages
  • calls to action and landing pages
  • (smart) forms

Other capabilities that play a role in lead management let you:

  • view which content your leads engage in and present leads with further content they will find relevant
  • score leads
  • do progressive profiling
  • set up event triggered email workflows

Besides these lead management capabilities, it should offer closed-loop analysis, search engine optimization tools, email marketing, and other tools to manage online multi-channel campaigns.

There’s no substitute for marketing planning

Whilst marketing automation can increase the effectiveness of lead generation and result in increased revenue, it is not a substitute for a customer-centric marketing strategy. Effective marketing plans start with a thorough understanding of your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey as they research and evaluate your products or services.

A look at the business case

Traditionally used by large e-commerce organizations, marketing automation has become more widely adopted and therefore more available, affordable, and practical for small business. Marketing automation combined with inbound strategies offers measureable benefits for small business:

  • lower cost per lead
  • improved customer lifetime value
  • increased revenue
  • improved sales effectiveness
  • better ROI on your marketing investment

What is important to recognize is that it is not a quick fix solution. If you start with a low-traffic base and want grow traffic organically, do not expect to see significant increases in traffic for 9 months (maybe somewhat shorter if you have ample resources to pump out good quality content).

On the other hand, if your site is already getting good traffic but you are not converting sufficient leads, you may see results much sooner by utilizing best practice conversion methods.

What to look for in a marketing automation platform

If you plan to research marketing automation solutions, look for things like:

  • What is included in the minimum license fee? Many providers will charge you based on the size of your contact database. Check how many contacts are included in the base rate. You really want a solution that is scalable but you might want to know whether charges are capped once you reach a certain number of contacts.
  • What is the minimum license period? Many require an initial12 months. Ask if the entire license fee is payable up front or whether they accept monthly installments.
  • Read real case studies of businesses like yours who have adopted marketing automation and see if you can get in touch directly with current users to hear their experiences first hand.
  • Is user training included? It is not unusual for training to be charged additionally. Check what training is included.

As mentioned before, there is no substitute for good marketing planning and strategy, but once you have your goals and roadmap set out, marketing automation can do some of the heavy lifting and provide you with the analytics to achieve sustainable lead campaign success.

Wendy Coombeswendy profile photo_150px copy is an inbound marketing consultant with a background in Technology and B2B marketing as well as e-Commerce.   Her inbound marketing agency, Brite Kite, is based in Sydney Australia. Wendy is passionate about helping traditional professional service providers such as lawyers and accountants, transition to online lead generation and realizing a better ROI on their marketing investment. Connect with Wendy on twitter via @wendycoombes.

 

4 Realities of Inbound Marketing You Can’t Afford to Neglect

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Rohan Ayyar – Enjoy!

Inbound marketing and social media participation for brands are one of the most effective promotion tactics today. The whole world of marketing is now skewed towards “earning customers” instead of “buy, beg, or buy your way in” that outbound marketers follow, if this Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing infographic on Mashable is to be believed.

The fundamental shift in consumer behavior is certain now: individuals are in control of what information they choose to receive. Not only do they have options when it comes to brands while buying, but they can also choose who they want to hear from.

According to Mashable’s infographic, more than 84% of 25-34 year olds have abandoned their favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. More than a whopping 86% of people skip television ads. At least 200 million Americans have registered for FTC’s “Do Not Call” list. Over 91% of email subscribers have unsubscribed from an email list they previously opted into.

Clearly, outbound marketing is having a hard time. On the other hand, inbound marketing works, but only when you go at it the right way.

Here are a few inbound marketing realities you can’t afford to neglect:

1. No one gives two hoots about your brand, product, service or whatever

This one’s hard. In fact, it’s the hardest truism about being in business today. Contrary to whatever you might think about your business, your prospective customers don’t really give a damn about you. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Does it mean all that passion, sweat, blood, and tears you put into running your business are for naught?

Customers aren’t overly concerned about you, and won’t be either, for as long as you beat your big corporate chest with your “campaigns,” you are just carrying out interruption marketing.

What the world does care about is solutions to problems. Your prospective customers are looking for solutions that can make their life better somehow, in some way. Whatever fits the bill – with respect to products and services – takes the cake.

2. Competition has no face

Once upon a time, all that a company would have to worry about – apart from producing goods and delivering services – was competition from similar companies selling similar products. Today, competition comes in new garbs everyday.

First, there’s the information overload that customers are slowly getting immune to (which means that they mastered the art of ignoring what you have to say). Second, the competition comes from smarter and leaner companies that have learnt the art of keeping customers engaged (with inbound marketing practices, of course).

If you’ve ever wondered why all that money being spent on campaigns never managed to bring in a dollar, it’s because of this competition overload. You just have a lot more to do today.

Are you ready to deal with it?

3. Marketing is the new way of giving

Capitalism was almost a result of selfishness. Ayn Rand was a staunch advocate of “self-worth” and “self-preservation.” She wrote whole tomes like Atlas Shrugged to get that point across. That was then.

Capitalism is still about making a profit. It’s just the way profits are made has changed with inbound marketing. This new line of marketing calls for “selflessness.” It calls for giving away more than you ask for. It calls for altruism, generosity, and spreading buckets of value through content, information dissemination, and relationship-building on social media.

Take whatever route you like, just make sure you give.

4. Inbound is harder than outbound

Most rookie entrepreneurs believe that since inbound marketing is relatively cheaper than traditional marketing, it ought to be easier. As they say, “Talk is cheap.” However, it’s easy to forget that work comes at a premium.

Inbound marketing is harder than traditional marketing. As a matter of fact, marketing is always hard as Drew Williams of HubSpot candidly explained. There are a whole lot of things to get used to. Businesses have to produce an unimaginable amount of content. There’s social media, there’s content (which itself stretches into blog posts, videos, podcasts, slide decks, infographics, curated content, and a whole lot more), which companies have to produce at an alarming rate.

Then there are multiple channels to tap into. Marketing itself is now a hodge-podge of tasks, departments and functions. Teams need to put their heart into all of these. They need to learn and use sophisticated tools for manifold tasks ranging from project collaboration to publishing, from web analytics to video conferencing. What’s more, they need to be effective at that, produce results and justify ROI.

How do you go about inbound marketing? What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in getting inbound leads? How do you convert these to sales? Do you have any new tactics or strategies to share?

Rohan Ayyar bio photoRohan works at E2M solutions, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in creative content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. He is an avid blogger, with posts on Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today and Moz, among other places. Rohan hangs out round the clock on Twitter @searchrook – hit him up any time for a quick Q&A.

Increase Rejection to Grow Your Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Andrea Waltz  - Enjoy!

YistheDestinationgraphic-webIt seems ridiculous.  After all, most business owners and salespeople alike operate from a place of fearing or, at best, avoiding opportunities to be rejected.  If the goal is to close sales and build the business, how would getting rejected more often possibly work?

The simple answer is it is in the avoiding rejection that the greatest opportunities are actually lost. The strategy works on the premise that when you increase opportunities to be rejected and hear more ‘no’s’, that your opportunities for yes’s, or whatever it is you are seeking, will also increase. You could say it is a numbers game.

For example, we’ve all heard the line, “Would you like fries with that?” A question so popular, the phrase itself encapsulates the entire philosophy of what it means to “upsell.” Of course, it is true: the mere act of increasing the amount of product you show and services you offer increases both the yes’s and no’s you will hear. It is not only a fool-proof formula, but one of the great undeniable laws of the universe.

What’s the issue?

Most people have grown up in a “Go for Yes” world. In that world, closing is good (the yes) and rejection (no) is bad. If you get a “no” you must be a failure and doing something wrong.   Unfortunately, it’s this emotional baggage and poor belief system that that holds us back from asking more questions, talking about additional products and services, or going after that big, scary client we’ve always wanted to land.

As kids, we had a natural sense of tenacity that has somehow been drummed out of us. So as adults, business owners find themselves doing everything within their power to avoid hearing “no”, sabotaging their growth and ensuring mediocre performance. As we go on, the entire world of opportunities starts to shrink because they only look for the yes’s – the low hanging fruit, the “easy” sales, leading to average results over time.

Try this:

Go out of your way to intentionally increase your failure rate. You read that right; intentionally increase the number of times you hear prospects and clients say “no” to you.  And, if the key to success is to increase our no’s, then it only makes sense to celebrate our setbacks as well. If someone turns you down, celebrate it! When was the last time you rewarded yourself for failing or hearing a no? Probably never!

How many total “no’s” did you personally obtain yesterday?  Last week?  Last month?  Now it’s time to start.  For this to work, you’ve got to get into action and step outside of your comfort zone.  When you start hearing no’s and start thinking differently about no, you will create the mind shift that is required to get back to that persistence you had as a kid. And, in the process opportunities will come into your business and life because you are finally willing to risk and wanting to ‘fail.’

To achieve significant success in today’s world, failure and hearing ‘no’ is not just a possibility…it is a requirement. We must see success and failure for what they truly are: not opposites, but opposite sides of the same coin. In other words: Yes is the Destination, No is how you get there.

AJWHeadShotFeb2013-WEBRichard Fenton & Andrea Waltz are the authors of “Go for No!” a short powerful story written specifically for business owners and sales professionals in every industry who must learn how to face failure and rejection to be successful. Visit http://www.goforno.com or get ongoing NOtivation at www.facebook.com/Goforno.

5 Ways Buying Facebook Fans Can Hurt Your Business

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Norton – Enjoy!

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photo credit: pixabay.com

Amazingly, many brands still measure social media success based on ‘counting metrics’, not on more meaningful indicators such as engagement, referrals or share of voice. Fueling this is the ongoing trend toward buying fans; usually bots that offer nothing of value what-so-ever. However, what many don’t realize is that this approach can in fact be actively harming your brand online. So, how can fake social media fans and followers be damaging? What kind of metrics should you be interested in, and why should social marketing success never be measured in LIKES alone?

1. Fake Likes Don’t Help Credibility

Purchasing of Likes may give your company an impressive image at first glance, but this alone isn’t enough to build a good reputation. With well-known crackdowns on fake accounts from the likes of Facebook in recent years, chances are your new ‘fans’ could suddenly disappear, or worse still, you could be publicly named and shamed. Think of the consequences; should you be exposed as buying fake fans, you risk instant scrutiny from the online world who won’t be shy in making their feelings known, and in the long term, this could damage your brand integrity, especially if you profess to be a transparent organization.

2. Fake Likes Don’t Turn A Profit

Contrary to popular belief, having a social media page full of fake likes or followers generally won’t help you achieve your marketing objectives – including driving sales. Anyone buying fake fans should check out their insights, and they’ll quickly see the majority of the accounts – even if they are real – are based in countries that they don’t even operate in. The same goes for any call-to-actions you are making through your social networks. How can you expect people to click through to your website or engage with your content if they’ve got no interest in your brand what-so-ever?

3. Fake Likes Don’t Measure Success

Many businesses, especially those starting out, believe the amount of Facebook fans are a measure of their company’s success and brand awareness. It is not. In fact, fake fans and followers can make your brand look worse online. If you’ve got a highly engaged online community of a few hundred, then any content you share will be received warmly, discussed and shared. In simplistic terms, Facebook’s algorithm will recognize this, and will then broaden the reach of the post to your wider community. Conversely, if you’ve got 1,000 fake profiles, then the initial reach of your posts will be worse, given that it’s being sent to un-engaged bots, not real people. This will subsequently reduce its natural reach, as Facebook’s algorithm recognizes this lack of engagement and interest in your content.

4. Fake Likes Will Mess With Your Metrics

A strong understand of social media metrics is essential if you ever want to improve your social media success. This includes knowing what content people are engaged with, and gaining an understanding of your online community’s dynamics and norms. However, the influx of fake profiles – which offer nothing in the way of engagement or meaningful action – will only impede your ability to measure your community’s behavior, leaving you with a dense smokescreen to negotiate.

5. Fake Likes Can Be Harmful

It’s often the case that the illegitimate individuals behind the fake likes and followers are professional hackers who use unsuspecting members of the public as their guinea pigs, without them even knowing a thing about it. The software in use by these people is also harmful to computers in general as spam links are commonly sent when the hackers are working their black magic. For any brand serious about behaving ethically online – which let’s face it, you should be – then buying fans should never be an option.

ChrisNortonChris Norton is MD at specialist social media and PR agency Prohibition.

Why You Don’t Need to Go Viral to Make Video Marketing Work

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Amy Harrison – Enjoy!

Clapperboard

photo credit: ARMLE via photopin cc

A viral video is the dream of many marketers and business owners. One smash hit can transform a business’s reach overnight. And it’s not just big brands like Blendtec and Old Spice dominating the video market. Newer companies such as Dollar Shave have exploded onto the scene largely due to their viral video presence.

The myth of viral for small business

While it can be a game-changer to be suddenly watched by the world, most small businesses don’t need this level of exposure to see results. If you could grow your audience by a few hundred, or a few thousand engaged prospects, would that make a difference to your inquiries, leads and sales?

The pressure to go viral can have a negative effect if you think:

  • You need a perfect video with high-end production to stand out
  • You need to create something wacky or crazy to get attention
  • If your video doesn’t go viral, you should can it and forget it

If you think video isn’t worth it unless you’re a YouTube star, you could be missing out.

Smaller audience, bigger rewards

Last year, I started a light-hearted sketch show called Content Marketing…Stripped!  I’ve created just 18 short videos

None of them have ever gone viral.

Most get around 100-300 views, but site traffic is growing, subscribers are up 75% and I’m seeing increased social media engagement.

Most importantly, they help attract clients. I’m closing sales faster because leads are more qualified. After watching, prospects say they feel they know me, would enjoy working with me and contact me based on that. I’ve never woken up to a phone call from The Tonight Show, or asked to comment for the New York Times, but this consistent creation of short videos has improved my marketing results.

Where to start? How to get results from a non-viral video

internet face (1)

A still shot from Content Marketing… Stripped!

Even a simple video of you talking to camera can build rapport and engagement with prospects. So why not break out your camera, and start planning your first simple marketing video using these steps?

1.     Focus on your customer’s problem first

Solving a customer’s problem is a great idea for your videos. Think about common “how do I…” questions your customer has that you can solve. For example: “How do I create a customer profile for my marketing?

2.      Ask yourself: what is the impact on my customer if this problem is left unsolved?

In the above case, without a clear customer profile, you don’t know what marketing will work, and you can’t attract your ideal target market to your business.

3.    Don’t just state the impact, illustrate it

Rather than simply tell your customer that it’s important to solve this problem, see if you can give them examples and illustrations to prove it, for example:

  • Wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t make the phone ring
  • Attracting the wrong clients and losing time on sales calls you’ll never close
  • Getting the wrong referrals because people don’t know who you serve

Video lets you be creative in how you present this information, you could think up a quick sketch, or unleash your whiteboard skills. Even if you’re just describing your examples, it’s better than simply telling your viewer that it’s important to solve their problem.

4.    Provide tips to solve it

Once you’ve illustrated the impact of the problem, provide useful tips viewers can use straight away.

5.    Remind viewers that you have products or services that can also help

In addition to free tips, don’t forget to let them know you can solve their problem directly with links to your contact, services or product page.

Start small and dip your toes in

If the goal of going viral has been putting you off, give video a try, there might be some low hanging fruit that you didn’t realize was ready and waiting for you.

Harrisonamy 150x150 (1)Amy Harrison trains companies to write better content, faster. She provides live content workshops for clients in Europe, and online training sessions for the wider world. You can find her Content Marketing…Stripped videos here and she was a featured speaker at the 2014 SXSW Interactive conference.

The Missing Ingredient From Your Content Marketing Strategy

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Mark Middo – Enjoy!

content-marketing

photo credit: Craig Garner

“I’m writing blog posts almost on a daily basis, but I am getting zero traction from social media and my conversions are terrible,” said Adrian, the director of a large software company in Australia. “Looking at Google Analytics, it seems like people just get the information and go. No one is sharing – and worse yet, no one is converting. This content marketing thing just seems like a huge waste of time.”

When I got back to my computer a few hours later, I started reading through the content they had been posting on their website. I wanted an early night that night, but I didn’t think I would hitting the pillow that early. These blog posts nearly put me into a coma – they were that boring.

Here’s the problem: practical information isn’t typically the sort of content that can easily go viral (especially if you don’t have a large pre-existing social network). For content to even drive conversions, it needs to be interesting, have heaps of value and be truly unique for it to get even a few shares or influence people to connect further with the business. This is especially true if you are creating content with the goal of generating B2B leads.

One of the main reasons that most business content has minimal sharing potential is that it doesn’t create an emotional reaction for most people. You just read the information, then you take off and find another blog post to read. Content really only gets shared when people go ‘wow’ that was a really awesome article – I need to tell my friends about it.

So what was Adrian missing from his content marketing strategy? What was the vital missing ingredient?

Personality

Adrian’s website was delivering plenty of value; the content was high quality and it was getting traffic, but it was obviously boring people to death. There was no personality to engage readers or make them care about who was writing the content; it was just another faceless company blog, so the visitors took the information they needed and bounced. Nobody wanted to share it because it wouldn’t make them look cool if they did.

The posts were attributed to the company blog rather than to individual authors, and the language was just bone dry – even the most seasoned readers found it tough to get through.

I can imagine people reading it and thinking, “That’s nice, pretty dry but I got some good information,” and then skipping away into the abyss of the Internet – probably to go look at cat memes and never to return.

Seth Godin alludes to this fact in his book, The Icarus Deception, when he notes that connection is the key in this connected economy. And I believe a great way to create connection online is through personality.

So, what are some ways that you can add some personality to your content marketing strategy?

1. The author is the key

Make the blog post from a person, not a company. Bring the author to life. Create a profile for the author, write a good bio that gives the author a personality, use a good, friendly photo (not in a suit with a serious face on) and make sure people can connect with them on social media.

What makes them tick? Is there something quirky about them that you could share?

People emotionally connect with people who have a ‘real life,’ so don’t be scared to provide some information that isn’t just “Adrian is a stiff director from XYZ Company with 30 years of experience blah blah.”

“Adrian loves bungy jumping off 50 story buildings in his wife’s favourite bikini.”

(Maybe that’s not so real, but you get what I mean.)

2. Ease of reading is a must

Write the blog post in a conversational manner. Make it easy to read and don’t use technical jargon. You want people to be able to breeze through the post making it easy for the brain to absorb.

If they get through the blog, quick endorphins will be released in their brains and they’ll feel good about themselves because they have accomplished something.

3. Include personality in your writing

Don’t be scared to add some jokes and create some stories. Occasionally, I’ll even put words that people don’t expect to see in my writing.

Why would I do that? Well, did you know that William Shakespeare would use words in his writing that weren’t actually part of the English language at the time? An example is his use of the word “ungodded” in one of his writings. One theory suggests that he did this to get his readers attention – throw them off a bit.

When we read, our brains actually make predictions about which words are coming next. By using unexpected words or writing something the reader doesn’t expect to read it actually causes us to think, it unconsciously makes the content stick out in our minds because it increases brain activity.

If one of the greatest writers in history used this strategy successfully, there must be some merit to it. So why not give it a go? Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll negate efforts to achieve #2 – ease of reading.

4. Promote sharing and discussion

At the end of the blog post, content marketers will often include an offer, call to action or opt-in. And yes, you should use these tactics to enhance your conversions, but before that, you could weave something into your writing along the lines of: “Hey, if you liked this post, I would LOVE it if you let your friends know about it. If you agree or disagree with what I am saying, give me a yell in the comments box below.”

These are just a couple of little strategies that I like to employ to give my content marketing strategy a bit more personality. Hopefully, you can implement them and start seeing more sharing of your content, too.

And hey, if you liked this article and have some buddies who would benefit from it, I would love it if you could share it with them. If you have any other hot tips that make mine look like Willie Nelson at a Justin Bieber concert, let me know in the comments box below.

middo-150-150Mark Middo is the author of 5 Minute Business and founder of Social Empire, a brand dedicated to helping people brings ideas to life online. After fueling the growth of some of the worlds largest brands including Formula 1, Mizuno, Renault and McDonalds, Mark launched his own start up called Reminisce, an online voting system built for nightclubs. Amazed by it’s instant success, Mark formed Social Empire so he could help people do exactly what he did – turn an idea for a passion project into a lifestyle business in quick time, and for minimal cost.

5 Ways Your Offline Marketing Efforts Can Improve Your Online Reputation

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Andy Beal – Enjoy!

reputationAn ongoing theme in my new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, is that your offline actions greatly influence your online reputation. No matter how hard you work to improve your social media engagement, online reviews, or customer satisfaction, it can all be undone if you don’t follow these five important offline marketing strategies.

#1 – Offer a Congruent Experience

The brand experience you sell online should match up with the one which you offer customers in real life. A flashy web site, engaging Facebook Page, or a content-rich blog will only lead to disillusion and disappointment, if someone visits your business, or meets you in person, only to find that you don’t live up to the hype.

Take away – be congruent in the branding experience you provide your customers. Does your offline marketing campaign sync with your online one?

#2 – Sell the Expectation

On a visit to Seattle, I stayed in a boutique hotel for a couple of nights. Unlike a hotel chain, you never know what experience you’ll receive from independent lodging. The hotel took no chances, and upon reaching my room, I discovered a card that thanked its guests for making the hotel the number one ranked in the area. It also went on to explain, that if I felt the same way, how I could submit my vote.

Bam!

Before I’d even had the chance to make up my own mind, the hotel had used social proof to suggest that I would have nothing but an amazing stay.

Take away – you only get one chance to make a great first impression. Don’t leave that to chance.

#3 – Train Your Employees

Make sure you hire employees that really want the job. Hire those that are passionate about your industry. As part of their training, remind them that they are always representing your brand and its reputation.

I recently shopped at a Mattress Firm store, despite reading some negative online reviews. My sales associate was one of the nicest, honest, and trustworthy salesman I have ever worked with. Not only did he change my opinion of the mattress chain, but I share that experience often—including a chapter in Repped!

Take away – get your employees to buy in to the fact that they are an important part of your brand. If they let down the customer, they risk the future of the company—and in turn, their own job!

#4 – Capture Feedback Early

Most online complaints are the result of a customer being mistreated during their business dealings with you. All it takes is for the manager to be too busy to take a customer’s call, or a staff member too arrogant to apologize for a mistake. The next thing you know, you’re reading about their experience on Yelp—along with millions of others!

Instead put in place a feedback system that ensures a customer never finishes their transaction with you without being asked if they were completely satisfied.

Take away – even an automated email survey could help uncover a festering negative experience that might ignite a reputation attack.

#5 – Improve Your Marketing Messages

All customer feedback can be used to improve your marketing messages. When you see a common trend in positive reviews about you, start highlighting those traits in your TV, Radio, and print ads. Likewise, when you a see a competitor come under attack for a weakness that happens to be your strength, capitalize on the event by adding those strengths to your marketing and PR efforts.

Take away – let your customers—and your competitor’s customers—help you craft your marketing focus and product messaging.

Lastly, remember that your offline reputation is intertwined with your online one. A bricks and mortar business is often reviewed and rated online, while an internet business is still discussed in coffee shops and at water coolers. You can’t afford to ignore either reputation.

andy-bealAndy Beal is the CEO of Trackur and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities in reputation management. His new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation is available now, and you can also catch his “Reputation Roadkill” keynote at ClickZ Live New York.