How to Save Face When You Fix a Mistake

Mistakes happen. But they can seem more perilous to small businesses that are just starting out. Losing a customer or a business partner has much higher stakes when you have less to fall back on.freeconsultation@ticular.com

When faced with the potential loss of a business relationship, it’s almost tempting to risk not correcting the mistake, in the hope that others won’t be able to detect the error. Of course, not making things right is in effect another mistake. There’s a fine art to correcting mistakes, and it involves four things: punctuality, accountability, charm, and generosity.

Punctuality

The difference between a small mistake and a big problem often comes down to timing: Agonizing over how to fix the situation can waste a lot of time in a way that exacerbates the original error. Communicate about it as soon as possible, apologizing for the inconvenience and promising a generous remedy.

Accountability

Even if it really wasn’t your fault, you look much better when you claim responsibility for the mistake than when you blame others. Similarly, truthfulness about what happened goes over better than anything you could possibly fabricate. A classic lie to avoid: saying your technology was hacked when it wasn’t — even people who aren’t tech savvy can see through that excuse.

Charm

Infusing charm into all of your business dealings is the adult version of “Just a Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins — the medicine goes down in the most delightful way. The need to be pleasant might be obvious, but less so is being graceful under pressure. It’s natural to feel stressed out or anxious about a mistake. But letting any hint of that seep into your communications could make them backfire. Take deep breaths and relax before you start talking.

Generosity

Actions speak louder than words, and that goes for making amends instead of just saying you’re sorry. Offer some form of gift, coupon or discount with an apology and you might not just keep a business relationship, but possibly strengthen it.Nobody’s perfect, and the people you want to continue doing business with agree. If they don’t, and you lose a relationship with a perfectionist, you’ll still be able to learn from the experience. Don’t make the same mistake twice.


Is Your Marketing Communications Plan Really Integrated?

Tangram-cats-smsmIn our information flooded world, people are battered with all kinds of things demanding their attention. A person needs to get a message five or more times before they pay attention, remember and act on the information. That means a non-integrated, singular marketing activity wastes time and money.

An integrated marketing communications campaign allows you to vary the presentation of the message while conveying a consistent content. Ask a marketing services firm to help you if planning and executing an integrated marketing campaign feels overwhelming.

Let’s say you want potential customers to know that you offer the miracle machine for fighting the physical signs of aging in your newly opened studio with the goal to sell them a bundle of treatments.

An integrated marketing communication campaign could consist of a three-month campaign using social media, your website, a white paper, email marketing, editorial

content in an offline publication and advertising, Google Offers, postcards, sandwich boards for the sidewalk and event marketing with an offline open studio event.

How Do You Make Sure a Marketing Communication Campaign Is Really Integrated?

To integrate your message visually over all channels you need a corporate design that includes a logo, a tagline with the essence of what you offer, a color scheme and shapes that enhance the appeal and eases recognition of a visual design and transport your core message.

If all you have now is a logo and a tagline, ask a graphic designer to suggest a color scheme and shapes that can be used. Blood red and black or needle sharp shapes are probably not conducive to entice your target group to seek treatment in your studio.

Goal

The best way to articulate a goal or objective is by answering a series of questions about what you want from the campaign. Ask what outcomes you seek, such as:

  • Increasing visibility and awareness;
  • Building trust for your product and services;
  • Differentiating yourself from your competitors;
  • Counteracting bad press;
  • Getting new customers or upselling existing ones.

freeconsultation@ticular.comThen, ask yourself what you expect or hope that your target group will think or do as a result of your campaign. Think of how you can measure that; it might not require polls or surveys if you have good analytics or “social listening” software.

Once you determine your metrics and measurement tactics, try to anticipate what you might learn from a poor response. In other words, how might you adjust your campaign one way or another based on the outcome?

Research

Limit your research to what your goal is and your budget allows. Find out how potential competitors market themselves, even if what they offer is only vaguely similar. Take note of the most successful of their marketing tactics and ask yourself why they were successful — and similarly, learn from their mistakes and differentiate yourself from those things. Use all of this data to help determine how your campaign will fare.

Target Group

Maintaining youth promises appeal probably mainly to women over 40 with a medium and higher income. You can get an insight into your local demographics from the U.S. Census website. Do you know enough about your target group’s preferences: gathering places and communication styles (i.e., face-to-face, phone, text, image or video, sheer facts or flowery marketing language)? And how would your target group benefit from the goal that you’re pursuing?

Message

Remember the acronym AIDA as the formula for getting people to connect with your marketing message:

  • Attention: Get people’s attention and they become aware of your product or service;
  • Interest: Get people interested by demonstrating advantages and benefits of your product or service;
  • Desire – Convince people your product or service will satisfy their needs, so they desire it;
  • Action: Lead people to act, either by purchasing or contacting you for more information.

Attention is captured by standing out from the environment where the message is conveyed. Interest is captivated by promising an answer to the needs of the target group. Desire means that the person becomes motivated to get the promised benefit. The promise may be on an emotional or material level like feeling more self-assured and attractive, less vulnerable in a youth worshiping world, or getting a discount, a prize or a freebee. The call for action needs to be followed by the means to get in contact with you either by phone, email, interactive social media websites or snail mail and street address of your studio and opening times.

Make sure that you hit up three main points in your message in a consistent and clear manner with the tone and appeal appropriate for your target group and your goal. Slang, goth or hip-hop elements are probably not the right way to address baby boomers.

Channels

The channels you choose need to be the preferred information and discussion outlets of your target group. Each channel has its inherent ability to convey a message.  For example, if your message entails something that happens over time and you want to show a development you want to choose a video. If your target group has an academic background, they might just want to scan a text message for keywords instead of taking the time to watch a video.

An image says more than 1,000 words, so use an image whenever the image supports your message. Watch out for diverging image and text meanings! Cognitive dissonance can be helpful if deliberately used to achieve your goal — or it may just irritate and repel the recipient. Take advantage of the various channel characteristics in your campaign and make sure that you keep the corporate design and tone and appeal across all channels which is crucial for an integrated marketing communication campaign.

Cross Promotion

Integrate the community: Groups, associations, or businesses may exist that don’t sell the same products or services but are interested in your target group for other reasons: Check your neighborhood for local restaurants, cafes or bars to hairstylists or apparel stores with community boards. They may help you in reaching your goal by sharing or linking to your content, sponsoring food and drinks for your event or providing expertise and support, or other resources.

Identify your potential partners and prioritize them according to ease of access to them and probability of their willingness to collaborate. Develop a proposal strategy so that each potential partner sees their particular benefit in working with you. Keep in contact with those who were interested or collaborated with an occasional note pertinent to your common interest.

Creativity

Assuming there have been similar marketing campaigns: How does your creativity measure up against those? Does your message really stand out in a positive way or is it just a “me too?” If you’re unsure how to measure your creativity you will find reference points here where creativity is explained as a function of novelty of form and content that spans the spectrum of imitation, variation, combination, transformation and original creation.

Effectiveness

Check if all the parts of your marketing campaign are effective: Content related to the benefit of the recipient, visual design creative and appropriate to content and target group; if video is part of your campaign make sure that you have good speakers who have a melodious voice and give fluently important information. Some webinars or YouTube videos are unbearably amateurish. If you can’t do it right don’t do it at all. Bad marketing communication is counterproductive. Assure quality of every single step and module.

This includes, for instance, checking online content in different browsers and with different computer screens for formatting or color issues. Print can surprise with unwanted color changes and blurriness. Checking out a proof before printing the whole lot is a good suggestion. And particularly watch out that the  phone number and street address is correct before publishing anything online or offline.

How would your integrated campaign flow?

Choose the right social media outlets for reaching your chosen demographics. There you can create your company pages and offer a continuous flow of information about your treatments and successes. Use your website to offer a white paper  (e.g., about the newest methods to maintain a youthful appearance) to be send to their email address. The expressed interest and email addresses can be integrated in an email marketing campaign.

Google Offers is a good way to promote a special deal and allows you to get even more email addresses of your target group. Again, the interest in this particular offer can be integrated in email marketing campaigns. Editorial and advertising in print media can be expensive. If you can afford it, launch your editorial content — for example, an interview with a medical doctor about the advantages of using the miracle machine. Accompany the editorial with an ad for your studio.

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Design an attractive sandwich board for the sidewalk to make pedestrians aware of your studio and the benefits of getting treatment. Spice it up with promotions that change weekly. People only notice things that keep changing. Something that doesn’t change fades into the background.

Distribute postcards that advertise your “open studio” event with a discount coupon in collaborating shops in your neighborhood. Put a color code sticker on the postcard so that you know from which shop they came and identify the partner who brought in the most. Ask people to send you an email to RSVP to the event since you need to plan for drinks and food. Then you have the email of a potential customer even when they don’t show up. Make your ”open studio” event count. Set yourself a goal how many people you want to sign up for a treatment bundle.

Success Measures

Online marketing has the advantage that data is electronically present and can automatically be analyzed. Success can be measured with the help of social media, blog and website analytics or email marketing metrics.

The success of offline marketing tools is much more difficult to measure because it involves active participation of recipients or attendees in a survey — be it by an actual interview from person to person or directing them to an online survey. This is time consuming and involves special skills. It is best to ask a marketing services firm to conduct the follow-up interviews.

Readers, how do your marketing efforts compare with what we’ve described here? What would you like to improve upon?


Your LinkedIn Presence Stinks. Now Here’s How to Hack — Er, Fix — It

LinkedIn is an underutilized resource. Optimize your presence on that social network and you can leapfrog ahead of the competition.

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Do a Google search for information about LinkedIn, and you find a lot of articles about improving profiles, from a job seeker’s perspective, and a relative minority are written about how businesses can boost their presence on the site. Here’s how we will up the ante on the discussion: Optimize both! Your business benefits if all of your employees put the best forward on LinkedIn, since their profiles all link to your page.

Most likely you won’t be able to get every single one of your employees to do this with their profiles. In fact, it might just be that whoever handles the page optimization becomes the only person to optimize a profile to match. It would be great if everyone on your staff used professionally prepared biographies on their profiles, but that might take more resources than you care to devote to this effort. More realistic: supply your staff with a list of keywords to add to the skills section of their profiles.

This section happens to be one of the most underutilized parts of LinkedIn profiles, as it offers the social networking version of search engine optimization (SEO). You can add up to 50 different terms to the skills section, yet most people only have a couple dozen at most. There was even less of this before LinkedIn launched the endorsement feature, whereby people could vouch for your skills. This has added skills to profiles that didn’t have them before.

Now, select the relevant keywords from your staff’s skills lists and work them into your company’s LinkedIn page. Incorporate these terms into the description of your business and what it offers. Use the same terminology in the status updates you’ll be posting to the site every day — yes, you can post them as a page and on your own profile. The same goes for posts to groups, both the ones you create and the ones you join: work your terms in.  Ditto for the questions and answers part of the site.

Contributing content to the site on a regular basis will also position you better in search results, both for a page and a profile. Try to put up something at least once a day. Also, including images also increases your social SEO, since they foster more engagement than any other type of material.

Readers, how does your LinkedIn presence stack up?


How to Grow a Business-to-Business Start-Up

Business-to-business startups may have a harder time marketing themselves on Facebook than consumer-facing brands do, but by no means should this be an excuse to forego social media nor online promotions overall. A nifty roadmap for scaling up on various social networks appears in the infographic below, created by Introhive. Please let us know what you think of it in the comments section beneath this post.

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Respond to Crises with the Right Messages

freeconsultation@ticular.com is the email address to use to get a free consultation on crisis communicationsNo organization is safe from crises – any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, significantly damage reputation or negatively impact the bottom line.

The causes are many and hardly calculable. But whenever there’s a problematic event, it’s exacerbated by poor communication. Any shortfall in crisis management can turn an incident into a scandal, especially now that people can spread the word faster than ever via social media. The negativity can travel internationally within minutes, doing damage to an organization’s image and credibility.

The best way to handle crises is to prepare for them in advance. Begin by brainstorming different worst-possible-case scenarios and develop communications strategies for them. Ideally this work should involve collaboration with stakeholders from different departments — including legal — to create a crisis preparation manual.

It should cover as many crisis situations, and as many aspects of each situation, as possible. It should designate a crisis communication team consisting of people who are easy to reach and capable of making the right statements as soon as possible.

Email freeconsultation@ticular.com for a free consultation on crisis communicationsThis manual should also help employees beyond the crisis communication team understand their responsibilities an emergency — typically, you want to train and authorize the broadest swath of staff to be able to make basic statements acknowledging the situation and explaining that the company is working on a solution.

More advanced messaging would be handled by trained media spokespeople. Map out who would communicate different types of messages via various communication channels.

These individuals would have predeveloped messages reflecting the company’s overall vision, mission and goal, the preparedness to deal with the crisis competently and which resources are and can be employed. They should reinforce the positive and be action or solution oriented. The idea is to not allow for there to be a delay in response or even a “no comment” in these situations.

The communications plan should even cover what to do if the answer to a question is unknown or not immediately available: The individual who fields it should immediately acknowledge the inquiry and tell whoever asked that “we will get back to you once we have an answer to that.” Or, if the answer to a question is not allowed to be shared for policy reasons — such as privacy of personnel information — that policy should be conveyed right away.

That said, here are some examples of acknowledgement messages that could be provided to the broadest swath of staff possible to enable swift replies to crisis situations:

  • “We have implemented our crisis response plan, which places the highest priority on the health and safety of everyone involved.”
  • “We are deeply saddened upon learning of…”
  • “We extend our deepest regret and concern for…”
  • “We have undergone a rigorous risk management process to prevent…”
  • “We are is committed to collaborative efforts that can reduce the…”
  • “Our hearts and minds are with…”
  • “We will be supplying additional information when it is available and posting it on our website.”

freeconsultation@ticular.comOnce a crisis communication plan is committed to writing, you can do the messaging version of fire drills: Roleplay different crisis scenarios over and over again with everyone on the crisis communication team, making sure they all know the contents of the crisis management manual inside and out.

Schedule at least quarterly reviews of the crisis communication manual to check if it is still up to date. Updates could range from personnel changes — designated pointpeople might have left the company or changed departments — and new emergency scenarios based on recent current events. Additionally, any technology upgrades at the company or other innovations would need to be incorporated, possibly requiring the revision of related processes. Finally, check for weaknesses or ambiguities and eliminate them.

When in doubt about any aspect of crisis communications, enlist help from experts who can help you prepare for different scenarios. No matter whether you do crisis communications with a third party or entirely in-house, the end result should equip you to maintain the ability to act quickly even in the worst situations.


Content Marketing That Will Make You Rich

Our webinar, “Content Marketing That Will Make You Rich,” debuted at the Online Marketing Institute’s Integrated Brand and Agency Marketer Summit and is available to stream on demand on the organization’s website. Get a taste of what it’s about by taking a gander at the PowerPoint slides embedded below. Let us know what you think of it in the comments section.


How Google Finds Your Business [INFOGRAPHIC]

Getting noticed online gets increasingly harder as webpages proliferate and Google expands the factors considered in its search algorithm — there are now 200 things affecting rank. Knowing how it works can help you make your business more accessible to users, even if what you actually offer is rather complex. The following infographic does a nifty job of explaining how Google works. Let us know what you think of it in the comments section.

How Google Works
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Can’t Ignore Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some people remain cynical about social media, which makes it necessary for marketers to continue to make the case for it to their internal stakeholders. The following infographic offers a nice shortcut on that with a list of ten reasons why small businesses can’t ignore social media.

ticular will grow your business via social media


82% of Businesses Will Grow Spending on Content Marketing This Year

A good 82 percent of businesses are going to increase their spending on content marketing this year. This will include more social media, blogs, and infographics, in that order. An illustration of this appears in the graphic below, created by Media Mosaic. Consider said infographic a teaser for a content marketing webcast we will be presenting at an Online Marketing Institute conference taking place at the end of the month.

Email freeconsultation@ticular.com for a free consultation on content marketing.


Make YouTube Part of Your Growth Plan

YouTube has become more popular than cable television among U.S. adults between 18 and 34. That trend makes the video website a dramatically cheaper alternative to TV commercials. Actually, the site is cheap even if you’re trying to reach people in other demographics.

And here’s why it makes sense to incorporate YouTube into your company’s growth marketing plan: Posting content to the video site can boost your website’s ranking in Google search results and can also amplify the effectiveness of a Google AdWords campaign, should you choose to go that route.

It’s never too late to get started. And no matter where you are on the YouTube learning curve, ample guidance is available for free on the video site’s how-to section, linked here. In case you still need convincing, here are some highlights from YouTube’s own statistics page:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80 percent of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S.
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • Mobile makes up almost 40 percent of YouTube’s global watch time
  • YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of devices

Hopefully those number have whetted your appetite for more information about YouTube, including pointers on how to use the video site to promote your business. Advice on how to do that appears in the graphicsbelow. Let us know what you think of them in the comments section beneath this post.freeconsultation@ticular.com