No Free Lunch: Pay-To-Play is Here to Stay

No Free Lunch

No Free Lunch

We all learned very early on in this life that there is NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH!

In the context of digital marketing, that is made evident in that you must invest resources (time, effort, money, etc….) to get results. There never was a “build it and they will come” (what I call the Field of Dreams fallacy) for online marketing. Sure, it may have been a bit easier a number of years ago when there weren’t so many companies and users online, all vying for attention. Certainly, on a platform like Facebook, things were somewhat more simple, or so they seemed. All you seemed to need was a lot of followers of your page and to post something every so often and it looked like you were successful (whether you were or not depended on how you defined success, but that’s another story…).

This has changed significantly…and in ways that require a lot more consideration on your part as a small business owner and entrepreneur.

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Surveys: Tell Me What You REALLY Think!

Survey Results

Survey Results

Surveys are notorious, from both sides of the subject… 

As someone who gets at least a survey per week in my mail, I respond to very few of them. Sometimes it’s because I’m just plain busy when I first see it, and it feels like a drag on my time (the DELETE key is so very tempting…). Other times it comes from a source I almost never hear from, so I wonder why (s)he wants me to give them input now, when I’ve gotten so little from them of value to date. However, when I do respond, it is usually to a person or organization from whom I’ve gotten some kind of value over time, it is tightly proscribed (that is, won’t take longer than a couple of minutes to complete….), and concerns topics that I care about.

As a business owner and blogger, I take these motivations and concerns into account when creating surveys. During the month of November I ran a survey for those who subscribe to my newsletter and regularly read my blog. The single question was:

What are the topics you wish to learn more about to help you in your business? 

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Setting Up for 2018 – Best of December

Make the Leap to 2018

Make the Leap to 2018

The end of 2017 brings a focus to planning, strategy and change in the marketing teams of every business, whether you have an actual team or it’s just you, the solopreneur. This collection of the best of December articles reflects this focus and gives you the thoughts and processes for consideration as you launch into the new year.

Sincerity

Sincerity

This article about sincerity and dialogue in business is my most popular for 2017. The value of sincerity in business cannot be overstated, especially as building solid, long-term relationships with your customers is easily one of the most profitable things you can do.

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JULY’s Best – Blogs, Strategy and Design, and Thriving at Work!

July blogs strategy thriving

July is Blooming!

July’s Best brings some familiar themes: blogs, strategy and planning, and making best use of your resources…

Business Blogs

Business Blogs

Blogging for business is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right? This article digs into 6 reasons why you should include a blog in your marketing. Take note of the business benefits listed….the effort pays off!

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Keeping Up With The Raging Stream of Content

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Raging Stream of Content

A Raging Stream….of Content!

How can you possibly keep up with the constant stream of content you need to publish so you can attract new visitors and satiate the the existing ones? Oh, and it has to be really valuable, interesting, entertaining, and, you hope, draws them to you in a way that leads them to hire you or buy your stuff eventually.

First, have a strategy and plan.

How much content do you actually require to meet your business and marketing goals? That depends…..typical answer, but it’s true. Here are some sample goals you might have:

  • Raise awareness for your business
  • Increase sales or leads
  • Establish and maintain professional credibility with your audience
  • Provide helpful “How-To” content to your audience

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The 5 Top Tested and Approved Posts for June!

 Kicking off the summer months with some TERRIFIC material covering ROI, opportunity discovery and various views on reaching the right Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community (VACC) for your business.

Who's your audience?

Do you know your Audience?

 
Growing on Social Media doesn’t mean quadrupling the number of times you post. It requires study, research, strategy and an understanding of the important metrics that drive your business online. That’s a lot to ask of a small business owner….this article by Jay Shemenski outlines 5 steps toward identifying the opportunities for your company. If this looks like something you need help, give us a call.

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FOCUS: Surviving Trust and Lies

Trustworthiness Global Poll from Hubspot

Trustworthiness Global Poll from Hubspot

Who do you trust?  No really…..
During my regular scouring of quality content this week I found an article by Ben Jacobson at Hubspot entitled “How to Build Trust Online: 7 Little Ways to Create a Trustworthy Website“. While the bulk of the article was about the things you could do to enhance the trustworthiness of your web site, it started me thinking about the characteristics of trustworthiness as it applies to Small-to-Medium-Business (SMB) owners and their Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community (VACC).

Trust is about being authentic in building relationships. Because we don’t come face-to-face with our VACC online, it can be very easy to forget their humanity. It is so important to remember this regularly, because building trust with the person sitting next to you at the Chamber of Commerce lunch or your next door neighbor is not that different.  It takes time, investment, provides some kind of value to both parties and consists of a lot of active listening…..among other things!

Take a look at the infographic from Hubspot at the top of this article from their recent research on trustworthiness. Half of us trust our doctors and firefighters. Why is that? No definitive answers (and half of us don’t!), but consider the role of these two professions in our lives. They can have life-or-death interventions in emergency situations, and we HAVE to trust them in those times. What are you going to do? Doubtfully send the firefighter away while your home burns down?!

Scan a bit further down and some of these results are….well, surprising. We trust professional musicians more than journalists. We trust our baristas (…wow…) more than investment bankers or stockbrokers. Marketers and salespeople are way down there, and yet we trust either of them more than the people we literally choose to represent us in government.  YIKES….

Circling back to my earlier assertion about authenticity, part of trust will be based upon the perception of truth-telling. What I mean by that is, for example, comparing my dentist and my stockbroker: what is the likelihood that this person will be transparent to me when asked a question? Is this person committed to what’s good for me as well as what may benefit them (most of us are OK with a “fair exchange of value”…)? How likely am I to get a complete and clear answer from them concerning our relationship, what they really need and/or want from me to do what’s right, and active listening on their part (and mine) when discussing those things?  Apparently, most of us will trust our dentist more (although it looks like I might have better luck with a teacher….a pretty gratifying statistic, as an educator….).

Another article I read this week from Valerie Maltoni entitled “How Good Leaders Tell if Someone is Lying” discussed some unnerving data about how comfortable we are with lying and how frequently we do so in our everyday activities. Lying is so ingrained into our culture and behavior, and influenced by our being uncomfortable with the truth (and what others think of us…) that the incidence and unconscious aspect of it was surprising to me. While the article speaks to ways of helping us learn the truth as leaders, I believe it also correlates highly to real and perceived truth-telling in the role relationships mentioned earlier. There are certainly situations in the lives of every person who holds a role listed in the infographic where exposing the unvarnished truth to another person or persons becomes a matter of self-preservation (probably the highest likelihood of NOT telling the truth…), through embarrassment, self-incrimination (no one wants to get caught doing something immoral, illegal or fattening…) to various degrees of trying to look good in front of others. What drives a lie is a constant swirling mix in each person and situation, although there is a lot of analysis written to try to figure it out and nail it down, for our own good and the good of our society.

So if a basis of trust is authenticity, what does look like to your business?

Over-sharing is not authenticity, for sure. That can make the communication all about you and will likely scare the daylights out of your VACC. Instead, communicate like you converse. While you want to showcase your professionalism (so watch your spelling and grammar!), you don’t want your posts or other writing come sound like it was written by a robot or a “marketing chatbot”. Stay away from trite phrases, overused and vague words”, and pretty much anything that isn’t part of your unique voice. It remains my firm belief that one of the most valuable tools in your business’s online toolbox is your unique voice. If you’re not sure what that is or how to express it online, get some expert help and start building up your strengths.

Another strong factor is that of social proof. The Wikipedia definition is, “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.” What that means is that it plays a big role in trust. Online, it looks like testimonials, Likes, shares and comments, fewer stock photos and more photos of real people (preferably those in your organization or close network…), “Featured in…” logos and links, and so on. It is word-of-mouth, referral marketing, but in the context of what is doable and of value online. Studies have shown that people are more likely to consider and buy from businesses that others they know and trust. To the degree you can enlist the help of your VACC in this endeavor, you build the trust of others in you and what value you actually deliver.

One last thing you can do that will help build trust: make the relationship you’re working on about your VACC and not about you. Place their businesses, their lives and their stories at the center of your attention. As humans, we are attracted to stories…..really good stories, well told, with ourselves (or others LIKE ourselves..) at the center. Your VACC will be turned off by a constant stream of “here’s what my company is all about and the solutions we deliver and why you need to buy from us RIGHT NOW!” Instead, publish stories about empowerment where the VACC is the hero. Highlight one of your best customers in a story…..not only will they LOVE the free positive exposure for them and their business, but you may end up with an unpaid evangelist for your business.

If you’re looking at your pipeline and your existing VACC and want to deepen the level of trust with them, you’re already looking down the right path.

Need help with this? Let’s talk!