Category Archives: Branding and marketing

Small Business Wisdom: How To Ruin Years Of Effort With One Dumb Mistake

directionsThis is how you can make years of progress toward a goal and then ruin your chances with one stupid mistake. We completely blew a meeting yesterday with a prospective client. The client’s assistant had sent us typed directions for several possible routes to their office, but no one at Tribe had stopped to read them very carefully. An hour or so before the meeting, we briefly discussed as a group which set of directions we should take and decided on one. Then my business partner and I set out for the meeting, an ample 45 minutes ahead of time.

The route we chose was the wrong one. Instead of the 20 or 3o minutes the trip should have taken, we drove around our elbow and through four counties (I’m serious), all the while following our typed directions. At five minutes before our meeting was scheduled, we were still whipping along some distant suburban highway and trying to come to terms with the fact that we were going to be late. We had GPS, we had our iPhone Map application and we had the office on the phone. All three assured us we were heading in the right direction, but we had a long way to go.

We apologized profusely and the prospective client was very gracious about it. But it’s a tough first impression to overcome. We were also rattled in the meeting and I’m sure we were not anywhere near the top of our game. The client turned out to be someone we enjoyed immensely. She was smart and energetic and funny and we would probably love working with her, but I’d be very surprised if we ever landed any of her business. And that’s completely our fault.

Our dumb mistake has much larger repercussions than one meeting. The drive back to our office (taking another of the listed routes on the assistant’s sheet) took less than 20 minutes. The crew back at Tribe understood that we’d shot ourselves in the foot with that meeting, but I don’t think they truly realized that we’d blown much more than one hour of a prospect’s time.

The effort it took to land that meeting began years ago. That prospective client works for a large Atlanta company which has been on our hit list since 2004 . For five years, my business partner has been reaching out to them with mailings and promotional pieces and emails and phone calls.

Over a year ago, in August of 2008, I finally connected on LinkedIn with Jo Ann, the then-marketing director of the company. Six months ago, Jo Ann left the company to start her own business and emailed to see if I’d like to get together for lunch or a glass of wine. Three weeks later, we finally met for lunch. She asked some advice on running her own company; In return, she kindly offered to set up an introduction with Leigh, the marketing director who took her place at her old company. Several weeks later, the introduction was made. It took my business partner a month after that to get Leigh to agree to a meeting. The meeting we had with her yesterday.

So there was a long road to that meeting yesterday, and I don’t mean the one we were following through four different counties. What we blew wasn’t one meeting. It was the years of effort to create a long series of very tiny movements toward that meeting.

Moral of the story: There’s so much a small business can’t control about whether a client hires us or not. Let’s control the ones we can. For instance, check out your directions ahead of time.

 

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Social Media for Old Folks, in an Old Media Format: the 52-Card Deck

smcardpileThey’re back from the printer! Our Starter Cards deck called “Build Your Brand With Social Media” is hot off the press, literally.

If you’re one of those people who’s got a LinkedIn account but you don’t really get how to use it; if you’re using Facebook, but mostly to spy on your kids, if you’re just  plain confused by the 140-character hullaballoo of Twitter, then this is the tool for you.

Build Your Brand With Social Media” was created for those of us who were born before faxes were invented, much less outdated. This is a way to easily get up to speed and be linking and friending and tweeting like people half your age.

Here’s the idea. There is no shortage of information out there about social media. In fact, there’s so much information, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Can’t somebody break it down into a series of manageable steps? Isn’t there anywhere you can get all the basics of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogging, all in one place?

As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what this “Build Your Brand With Social Media” deck does. It walks you through the whole process, one step per card, with simple directions for that step on the back of each card. It’s as close as possible to having me sitting there with you, taking you step by step.

Want to give it  a whirl? You can find the cards on the Starter Cards website.


The Cliff Notes of Social Media for Old Folks: Webinar One

EB&JBWebinarThis afternoon, we sat on the couch in my office and took about six or seven small business owners through an overview of what social media can do for them. My business partner Jennifer and I were presenting to a creative director, a literary agent, a strategic marketing person, a sales rep, an account planner, an expert on world poverty and an accupuncturist — all of whom were sitting in their own offices in front of their own computers.

Social Media for Old Folks is our five-part Webinar, covering everything from blogging to linking to friending to tweeting. We’re not social media experts, by any means, but we have learned a great deal about using social media in the last year or so. We’ve also discovered that we’re quite passionate about sharing that knowledge with others.

If you’re in a business that involves sharing what we call Odd Knowledge, social media is the most powerful way out there to build your business. Whether you’re a financial advisor or a large animal vet or an event planner or a Pilates trainer — or a world poverty expert or accupuncturist — you offer an expertise in a specific niche.

If your business depends on clients trusting you to be the one with the right answers, then social media is a powerful way to establish that trust. It’s also a place for you to share your unique perspective on your particular field of expertise.

Here are a few highlights from our Webinar today:

1. Social media can connect you with the whole world — but make it feel like you’re doing business in a small town. Despite the fact that it depends on technology, it can be an extremely human and personal form of contact.

2. The two most important things social media can do for your business are to A) promote your expertise and B) build your connections (which can become a following). This creates a beautiful dynamic: Instead of you always reaching out for new customers, you’ll find them seeking you out instead.

3. The model we recommend is this: a blog to showcase your expertise and social networks to drive traffic to that blog. Your blog is your content; the social networks are ways to start conversations about that content.

4. Your website and your blog are two different things. The website is your company talking, and is a destination for background information and evergreen materials. Your blog is you talking, is more fluid because it’s updated more often, and gives you a venue to share your expertise in a narrow niche, usually more narrow than your actual business. We recommend keeping your website and your blog separate, although each would include links to the other.

Next week we cover Facebook in more depth, and in the following weeks we’ll talk about LinkedIn, Twitter, and how to develop your own blog. If you’re interested in  more details, you could go to the Seminars page on the Starter Cards site.

Social Media for Old Folks, in Five Easy Pieces

SM FrontPlenty of reasonably (or even exceptionally) intelligent people still resist social media. Some don’t see the value in it; others just can’t quite figure out how to jump on that escalator. Social media keeps moving and changing every day, so it’s not easy to figure out where to start.

One problem is that there’s so much information out there on how to use social media. Try Googling “Using LinkedIn,”  “How to Facebook,” or “Learning Twitter,” and you’ll find yourself millions of links to explore. Not hundreds of links, not thousands, but really — millions. Most reasonably busy people will decide they don’t have time for that.

What you need is someone to break it down into simple, actionable steps. You don’t have all day, but maybe you could spend an hour a week. If you didn’t have to go anywhere. Like while you’re sitting at your desk.

That’s where the Social Media for Old Folks Webinars come in. If you’re young enough that you grew up with a mouse in your hand, then a lot of this material will be too basic for you. But if you’re one of those who remember when a fax was the new cool thing, then this might be right up your alley.

We break it down into five one-hour webinars, each Wednesday for five weeks. We’ll walk you through how to build your brand with social media, from a basic overview of the landscape and etiquette to specific, actionable steps to get yourself set up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and finally, to start your own blog. (You’ll also learn why you really do need your own blog.)

You’ll be sitting at your computer and be able to see and hear us in real time. As we’re talking about various steps, you can complete many of them right then and there. When you have questions along the way, we’ll stop and answer them.

We’ll show you how to use social media for two important goals: to build your connections and to showcase your expertise. Think it would be presumptuous to consider yourself an expert? We’re not talking about having a Ph.D. in something; Your expertise is the narrow niche about which you’re passionate, the area of your deep experience, the problems friends come to you to help solve. It’s not about bragging, it’s about what you have to give.

If  you run your own business, or are in a corporate job and want to increase your visibility in your industry, then social media can be a powerful tool for you. It doesn’t have to be that hard. But it does take some effort. The Social Media for Old Folks Webinar is the easiest way we know to get you up and running. By Thanksgiving, you could be blogging and linking and friending and tweeting like someone half your age.

For more details, just click here. Or feel free to email (elizabeth@tribeinc.com) or call me (404-256-5858) with questions. (If you register today -Wednesday, Oct 7 – you can use the promo code EARLYBIRD for a $50 discount.)

When can entrepreneurs stop worrying about winning more business?

growth“My business seems to be successful,” said the new entrepreneur, “but when do I get to quit worrying about enough work coming in?” Jo Ann is an accomplished marketer, with 20 years of experience under her belt and an MBA, not to mention gorgeous and personable. She left her post as VP/CMO at a venerable brand to start her own marketing consultancy.

“Never,” was all I could tell her. In my years of running my own companies, I’ve been able to come to a strange peace with that fact, but some days it requires a certain amount of zen not to completely freak out.

I gave her my rock climbing metaphor. When I was just starting my first ad agency, I  asked that same question of my friend Bill, a wildly successful illustrator who has run his own business for decades. Bill’s personality is about as low stress as mine is high, and I would never peg him for a worrier. (One night at some industry event, I remarked to Bill that it had been a gorgeous afternoon. He agreed, and revealed that he’d turned down a job to do a Newsweek cover that afternoon so he could go hiking instead. I was impressed, but he laughed and said, “I’m thinking I made the wrong decision.”) Bill told me the same thing I told Jo Ann: never.

Bill said he still worries all the time, but he doesn’t view worry as a negative. He suggested I try to enjoy the fear, the same way I enjoy the fear inherent to rock climbing. “Think of it as exciting,” he said. “It’s scary, but it’s kind of fun.”

Here are my four best tips for maintaining perspective:

1. Redefine worry. Worry can be useful, if it wakes you up in the middle of the night with the realization that you won’t be able to make payroll unless you collect that big receivable that’s running late. Worry can make you get up the next morning and get your client on the phone to help push that invoice through their accounting department and get you a check. Instead of telling yourself that you’re worried, maybe you’re actually just “aware.”

2. Remember how much is in your control. Although you can’t control the economy or a potential client’s budget cuts, you can control your efforts. During slow times, ramp up your networking, your outreach, your marketing. In your own business, you truly have more control over your success than you would working for a large company.

3. Give seeds time to grow. For the sort of professional services many small businesses are selling, the sales process can stretch out for years. If you don’t get a piece of business you pitch today, that doesn’t mean you won’t win some work from that client somewhere down the road. At Tribe, we got our first project from UPS a full two years after I’d sent an introductory letter to a heavyweight there. He’d kept that letter in his files until he had a need for us. Similar story with our Chick-fil-A clients. Life is long.

4. Don’t slack off in good times. When a small business is busy, it’s usually all hands on deck to get the work done. It’s very difficult to come up for air long enough to formulate any sort of marketing efforts. Just don’t let your business development machine grind to a complete halt. Keep pitching. Stay visible. Be in touch.

I’m sure some of you out there have tips to add to that list. How do you deal with the relentless need to keep drumming up business?

The Black Bass Lesson: How hard is it for potential customers to find you?

images-2Recently, we were invited to a friend’s surprise party at the Black Bass Inn in Pennsylvania, and decided to fly up just for the night. The Black Bass turns out to be a charming inn built several decades before the Revolutionary War, but making a reservation wasn’t easy. In fact, it was so hard to find their phone number, I wondered if maybe they had banned telephones as a nod to historic accuracy.

The invitation instructed us to visit http://www.blackbassinn.com, which actually takes you to a porn site called the Boob Tube (with a logo composed of two hot pink cartoon breasts). Okay, that’s funny, but not much help. There are plenty of reviews of the the hotel and its restaurants on various travel and dining sites, but they don’t give a phone number.

Then I started noticing mentions online of people asking if anyone else had the inn’s new phone number. Apparently, the old number was assigned to another customer in the interim between the former owner’s death and the new owner’s re-opening of the inn.

Finally, I went the old-fashioned route and called directory assistance. I had been putting that off, because I wasn’t sure if the hotel was in New Hope or Lumberville, or where in Pennsylvania either of those towns might be. But fortunately that didn’t stump AT&T for long, and soon I was on the phone with a lovely woman at the inn who helped me book what sounds like a pretty fantastic room with exposed stone walls and a view of the Delaware River.

I mentioned to her my experience with the website, which was apparently the first she’d heard of that. She actually guffawed when she pulled up http://www.blackbassinn.com and saw the boobies. Turns out the inn’s real website is at http://www.blackbasshotel.com. Who knew?

Here’s some advice I took myself: Take a few minutes and pretend you’re a potential customer looking for your company online. Try a few variations on your company name — like the Inn and Hotel example. Hopefully, your website and phone and even address are easy to find. But if not, it would be good to know where those potential customers are ending up. Especially if it’s somewhere as colorful as the BoobTube.


Lauren Luke’s success illustrates five powerful trends in social media

images-4Lauren Luke, an ordinary person who has become a celebrity expert, is an excellent example of some important trends that many marketing people still resist. You may not have heard of her, but she’s been covered by both the BBC  and  The New York Times, and has 253, 941 subscribers to her YouTube channel, at this writing. 

Lauren is a single mom in England who started posting videos demonstrating various makeup products and techniques — that she tries out on herself. On camera. In close-ups. Lauren is charming and attractive, but she’s no supermodel. In addition to a huge following on YouTube, she has recently scored a book deal and her own makeup line at Sephora

Here are the important trends that Lauren exemplifies: 

1. On social media, everyone’s an expert. An expert doesn’t mean a PhD, in this case. It means paying attention to a particular topic and learning enough that you can teach others all about it. That topic may be a very narrow niche that most people couldn’t care less about, but the Internet allows the people who are interested to find you.

2. Vlogging is the new blogging. Plenty of people say, who has time to watch videos? Apparently, a lot of people. Lauren’s videos have had something upwards of 50 million views. Business owners and corporate big shots who haven’t yet mastered a blog should just skip right ahead to shooting their own vlog, because that’s what’s happening now. Pew Internet found that 62% of all web users watch videos online, and some experts report video blogs are already being more widely viewed than written blogs.

3. People trust authentic more than flawless. The cosmetics industry  is known for its million-dollar faces and expensive production. (Think high-end directors, film crews, lighting, retouching and everything that comes with a professional shoot). Although there will always be a place for that aspirational branding, consumers place more trust in homemade videos of regular people sharing their opinions. Lauren shoots her videos herself at home, and airs them unedited (she says she doesn’t know how), so viewers see when she messes up or her dog walks through the scene. She’ll do decidedly unpolished things like hold up a product and tell watchers what brand it is, but follow that with “I think that’s how you pronounce it.” To say Lauren comes off as real is an understatement. 

4. People get their information from other consumers. There was a time when consumers learned about brands and products from the brands themselves. Now, thanks to the Internet, people get more information from other consumers than they do the brand. It has created a power shift that many major brands still don’t quite accept. Lauren will review five different mascaras and point out things like “this one is such a weird shape I nearly put my eye out with it.” You would not find that on a Maybeline or Chanel commercial — and women appreciate hearing it.

5. Women use YouTube. The common misconception is that YouTube is all about a bunch of knee-slapping guys laughing at each other’s stupid humor. But women are on YouTube too, especially in the how-to segment. YouTube describes its current users as 48 percent female. 

The other trend that Laura illustrates is not related to social media but to women entrepreneurs. Many women start their own businesses because it allows them to flex their work days around their kids’ schedules. Laura was 16 when she had her son, and as a single mother, I’ll bet she finds her current gig much better for her life than a corporate job might be.