Posts Tagged ‘online marketing’

h1

Real Time Marketing is a Myth

March 24, 2014

here is the article I wrote for the march Issue of RSVP MN Magazine. It originally appeared here.debunked

It has been the hottest marketing jargon tossed about since Oreo jumped on an opportunity at the 2013 Superbowl when there was a power outage to let their audience know it was still “OK to dunk in the dark.” The tweet went viral and was the most retweeted post (15,000 retweets) by a brand during the Superbowl. Everyone was super excited, especially marketers. So much so that brands spent hundreds of thousands, and even millions, to be the brand with the Oreo moment at the 2014 Superbowl.

Company’s like Papa John’s, Doritos, Verizon, Jaguar, JC Penny, Butterfinger and Reese’s all tried to get into the real time game. They tried to post about plays as they happened or predict outcomes, really without much success. The winner apparently was the Esurance commercial after the Superbowl which announced a million dollar giveaway in exchange for retweeting a hashtag. While the benefits of buzz and awareness do have some value—more social media followers were gained—the bottom line, from Oreo to Esurance, is what has been the conversion of new business dollars from this? Something no one seems to want to measure.

There is of course a better tactic. I propose you do the one action on social media that actually could drive your business forward: perfect the art of real time listening. As of 2013, according to PEW Internet, less than 50 percent of brands and businesses monitor the online activity that mentions them. How can you ever respond to and service your audience if you are not listening to them on the channels they prefer to communicate?

The same PEW report also indicated that more than 90 percent of consumers using the internet for business transactions expect not only that the brands and businesses have a presence online, but that they can interact with them online as well. For too long social media’s focus and intrigue to the C-suite has been its potential to drive sales. The real value of social media though is the ability to perfect and enhance your customer service. There are three steps you can take this year to perfect your real time listening skills:

1. Monitor the channels where you have a presence.

You need to listen, engage and respond to followers on all of the social media accounts you have set up for your company. All of these channels have the ability to push notices to the person managing your account. There are even management tools that will pull all your accounts into one tool, such as HootSuite.

2. Monitor review sites and the general internet for mentions of your brand or business.

Whether you use free tools or hire an outside firm there are different levels of monitoring that can be done. For some brands 24/7 monitoring is needed. For others it can be a daily or weekly situation. The tools can provide you with information as frequently as you would like it to give you reports.

3. Integrate customer service into your social media team.

The final piece is the human element that can respond to the information gathered during the listening. Put into place guidelines for response to customer issues. Empower your team to take action to a certain point to satisfy your customers as quickly as possible, but also have a plan in place where problems that need escalation will receive attention in a timely manner. Larger corporations are forming communication command centers that can achieve this, or are outsourcing to firms that provide these services.

Real time marketing will have to be able to be measured as converted sales dollars if it will ever be successful. While we wait for that to happen, if you aren’t even participating in the conversations by listening to your channels, you will miss any opportunity that arises in those conversations. Are you listening?

h1

Thank You Marketing is Even More Important in the Digital Age

November 19, 2013

This article also appears in the November Issue of RSVP MN Magazine:  click here

Thank You Marketing is Even More Important in the Digital Age

By Christopher Lower, Director of PR and Communications, Sterling Cross CommunicationsRSVP MN MAG November Article

Mother taught you many things that are important to running a successful business, but the most important were those magic words that can get you anywhere: “Please” and “Thank You.” You remember those words, don’t you? With the days of “tightening the belt,” Return on Investment, and keeping your eye on the “prize” being the necessary realities of business, we’ve become so streamlined that many of the human elements of business such as relationship building have been stripped away. The addition of digital communications has added even another layer of disconnect to those human relations.

Corporations are seen as out of touch with their clients and customers. What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could value tangible results and intangible relationships? You actually can have your cake and eat it too if you go back to Mom’s advice.

Successful business owners need to build and nurture positive relationships with the three audiences that make it possible for them to be in business: their employees, current customers and future customers. Building those relationships is as simple as realizing one simple truth: each employee and customer thrives on personal recognition and gratitude.

A thank you that is memorable and meaningful goes miles toward establishing loyalty. Showing appreciation is particularly important for service businesses, as your customers don’t receive a tangible product that reminds them of your business the next time they are looking for a similar service. Thus, service businesses must focus on quality of execution and customer service to achieve brand differentiation.

Technology has changed much of the way we communicate with clients, but it can also be a great tool in your Thank You Marketing as well. How do you say Thank You currently? Do you give small gifts, gift cards, appreciation events? If so, technology can help you to streamline this.

Thank You Cards: Automate the sending of thank you cards, and follow up greeting and post cards with Send Out Cards. You can write and store unlimited cards and even set up multi-step mailing campaigns. While it does cost to join, it’s pretty reasonable. Best of all you can upload your own handwriting and each card is printed and mailed with a real stamp.

Flower/Candy Gift Giving: Need flowers delivered? There’s an app for that! Many florists such as FTD have mobile apps and even ordering kiosks in some high traffic offices to allow you to have flowers delivered globally. Websites like Psychic Flowers will even allow you to enter calendar events. The same is true with chocolates and candy gifts; there are many websites that will send candy, chocolates or cookies to your list.

Appreciation/Relationship building Events: A corporate “holiday party” was once the norm, but due to budget cuts, and/or fears of impropriety, they have been obliterated from corporate culture. In the day of emails, voicemails, etc., we have sterilized our relationships with our employees, vendors, and customers alike. We need to get back to putting a human face, voice and presence in our relationships – personal interaction. Corporate events have evolved as well. From team building enterprises, to group community service projects, there are many events that can be done with a positive outcome for a company. Technology can enhance these events, such as encouraging photo submissions from apps like Pinterest or Instagram to Scavenger hunts with apps like Foursquare, and invitations from companies like EventBrite.

Gift Certificates: Giving a gift certificate as an employee reward for a job well done or as incentive can say thank you in ways beyond a paycheck. Many websites like 7P Gifts will send out gift cards, and have multiple options of stores to choose from and cards for men and women.

Virtual Assistants: Finally, even if you don’t have the time to make sure the Thank You Marketing is done, there are many personal virtual assistant services out there who you can hire on retainer or on a project basis to get this done for you. Companies like eVirtual Services or Time Etc are two companies that offer Virtual Assistant Services Nationwide.

Thank you marketing is not a new concept – but how it gets done these days with technology is. We used to conduct business personally and usually with a handshake involved, meaning we actually met with our clients to seal the deal.  Mother always knew we’d succeed if we mastered certain social and business skills. Mother knows best.

h1

The Easiest and Quickest Line Item cut you can make to your Marketing Budget to save money in 2013

December 12, 2012
The Yellow Pages are dead. Cut the deadweight from your Marketing

The Yellow Pages are dead. Cut the deadweight from your Marketing

If there is one thing you should rush to do to stop any useless dollars being spent in your marketing budgets now and for the future is to end all money spent with Yellow Pages (yes including those that claim to be “online” these days). It is time to put these paper behemoths permanently in the recycling bins!

According to pewinternet.org, 14% Of the American Population even knows what the Yellow Pages are! 1% Of Americans will ever search for a business in the Yellow Pages. The Yellow pages of today are online business directories such as Google Places, Linkedin, Yelp, and Facebook. All of these sites have options for businesses to set up business accounts with a basic listing always being free of charge. There are of course customization and enhancements to your listings such as running optimized targeted advertising, posting product photos, and video.

The traditional Yellow Pages companies have made the migration online, and Qwestdex (Dexonline) seems to be the most aggressive and capable, yet there is a major problem. They are extremely far behind these other platforms in the areas of SEO. It is rare to find unpaid Dexonline listings ever appearing in the top ten listings on Google for a business. I would love to revisit them in the future, as I am always rooting for businesses to reinvent themselves to survive in the new economy. For now, when it comes to Yellow Pages advertising in any way shape or form, my advice is that from the one-hit-wonder band of the 80’s;  Slade and their song “Run Runaway!”

h1

The One Thing You Have To Do To Your Website In 2013

December 10, 2012

I am constantly being asked by clients and panels that I am speaking on, about how to prioritize the very limited budgets that are being forecasted for 2013 when it comes to what they can do for marketing that will give them the greatest ROI without costing an arm and a leg. Here is my best advice for 2013:

It’s no longer “good enough” to have a website and to be found on the internet. That website you invested good money into building and maybe even rebuilt once or twice in the last five years is obsolete. Visitors to your site are leaving in droves, or not even finding your site in the first place. Is it because of a lack of SEO (search engine optimization)? No. It is because you can’t be found on mobile devices.

Up until 2011 most website designers designed websites to be viewed on a 15” or larger sized computer monitor or screen. 90% of today’s Smart Phones (phones with the ability to access the internet) come with standard 2”x 3”screens, so at most, they are seeing as tiny portion of your website or your whole website in a micro-size.

Why is this so important?

According to pewinternet.org, in 2012 half of all American Adults (ages 18-60) will access the internet only through a Mobile Device such as a cellphone or tablet.

Mobile User's Frustrations

Mobile User’s Frustrations

When a mobile user visits a standard website and has a negative experience:

  • Most, over 61%, never come back
  • Almost all the rest, nearly 40%, go to YOUR competitor’s site

The top complaints of mobile users about websites are:

  • It takes forever to download.
  • It doesn’t fit on the screen.
  • The text is too small.
  • I can’t navigate the interface.
  • I have to pinch & zoom to view anything.
  • It takes too much time to use

So, what can be done to correct this? At Sterling Cross we have been researching these issues and at the request of our clients we have come up with a solution we have now added to our service offerings for 2013 and beyond! We’ve met with and surveyed over 12 of the top local, regional, and 2 national web design firms to create a solution that can meet the needs of our clients, whether they are looking for the most cost effective solution or as part of a redesign of their entire site.

The number one recommendation from almost every single website company was to do a complete website redesign and incorporate “responsive” technology where the website will detect what type of device is browsing the site (smartphone, tablet, or computer) and display that version of the site (essentially building you three sites). This is of course how all websites will be built in the future, and if you are looking for an entire rebuild of your site, we’ll gladly help you in that process.

If you are looking for a short-term or a more cost effective solution to modify your site without redoing the entire website, we now offer the following three solutions:

  1. For 95% of Custom HTML or Open Source code websites: you simply add a “Mobile Style Sheet” Which recognizes when a mobile browser is viewing the site and adapts it to mobile view. (This typically requires only a couple hours from a coder to adjust on your site).
  2. WordPress sites have a free Mobile WordPress “plug-in” that can be added to also discern who is viewing from a mobile browser and adapt the view (The WordPressbasic widget, truly is very basic. We would recommend 1-2 hours of a coder or designer to create a mobile interface template that matches your brand).
  3. If your site is not in these two categories, we can do the custom coding to do to provide a front end Responsive Bumper. This bumper recognizes the device browsing the site and seamlessly directs it to a mobile version of your website, which mirrors the data and info on your current site. We can do this on an hourly basis, without having to revamp the whole site, typically for a fraction of a total website redesign.

Please contact us for more information or if you are interested in any of these solutions. Your customers ARE on mobile, shouldn’t you be as well?

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

h1

10 Businesses That Would Benefit by Being on Pinterest Today!

April 18, 2012

In recognizing how incredibly fast Pinterest is growing, and the quick migration to Pinterest by many businesses (including ourselves and several of our clients). I was recently asked at a conference, which businesses would really benefit by being on this platform and why they would do so. Here’s the list and reasons that I came up with for the group:

  1. Hair, Nail, & Spa Salons – Obviously this platform is incredibly suited to the primary demographic of users (Pinterest is the number one platform of choice for female social media users).  Pinterest Boards can be used to highlight and focus on photos of current hairstyles, fashions, nail color trends, hair colors, beauty and facial trends and the lists go on. 
  2. Travel Agencies – Think of Pinterest as your home for virtual travel brochures and videos. Because of the “wish list” feature of Pinterest, where people are pinning and repining great travel images and destinations they would like to plan on visiting.
  3. Home Remodelers – Use Pinterest as an online gallery to show off before and after photos of your projects to demonstrate your expertise and examples of great work you have performed.
  4. Interior Designers – The same basic idea as remodelers would work here. Pinterest can be leveraged as an online gallery to show before and after photos, show off trends, fabrics, patterns, signature pieces, and so on.
  5. Landscapers – Here you can benefit from sharing how-to information, as well as showing off examples of work you have performed.  Just like rooms in our homes, we tend to pin photos or repin photos of things we’d like in our yards someday.
  6. Event & Wedding Planners – Here you can showcase venues, ideas, your portfolio of work done, decorations, themes, and settings. The list here is endless.
  7. Jewelry & Clothing – Combining product photos and the Pinterest “Gift” option can help to drive online and in store sales of items you sell.
  8. Tattoo Shops – Where better to place an online gallery of your artwork and designs! You can also show off specific signature pieces, as well as provide examples of tattoos designed for specific body areas.
  9. Auto Detail/Paint/Customizing – The number one things that Males on Pinterest pin after food pins, are pins of vehicles, especially dream cars, customized cars, and video as well.  If you can provide these images of your work online they are sure to be repinned (believe me, I found a showroom photo of a 1979 Chevy Chevette, my first car, and even that car is my pin with the highest number of repins).
  10. Resorts & Campgrounds – Similar to travel, you can virtually create an online travel brochure for your property to drive awareness and interest.  You can even open up certain Pinboards to allow your guests to pin photos from their trips or vacations. Allowing your customers to help share the fondness and memories of their trip.

At Sterling Cross Communications, we have a vast experience in creating and executing exciting and outside the box campaigns across several social media platforms. If you need help or more ideas on placing your business on Pinterest or need a strategy and action plan on what to do on these channels please contact us at http://sterlingcrossgroup.com.

h1

Whistleblower: A Q&A with Mr. Fixit for online badmouthing

March 19, 2012

I was interviewed recently by the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Online Reputation Management and how damaging a bad reputation can be to a company’s bottom line. Here is an excerpt and a link to the rest of the article online:

Consumer complaints about businesses are migrating from the watercooler to the Web.

From Facebook and Twitter to Yelp and FourSquare, consumers can sound off about a company to hundreds of friends and followers with a click of a button.

That’s where online reputation management experts such as Christopher Lower come in. He and his wife own Maple Grove-based Sterling Cross Communications, helping Twin Cities restaurants, hotels and nonprofits monitor what’s being said about them 24/7 and respond within minutes. Click Here to Read the Rest of the Article

h1

Using PR & Social Media to Promote Restaurants – A Case Study

January 18, 2010

At Sterling Cross Communications, we’re very proud to have been a recent case study focus by Meetings: Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal Magazine’s Winter 2010 Issue.  The Case Study covers the work we have been doing for our client moto-i, the first sake microbrewery outside of Kyoto, Japan, located in Uptown Minneapolis.   It goes into detail about the behind-the-scenes efforts that were put into place to promote this restaurant via social media channels as well as integrating media and blogger relations. Here is the article:

Sake & Social Media

Placing his trust in Sterling Cross Communications, restaurateur Blake Richardson turned to social media to market his latest venture, Moto-i sake microbrewery and restaurant.

By Ellie M. Bayrd

Nearly seven years ago, Blake Richardson, owner of the Herkimer Pub & Brewery in Minneapolis and the mind behind Triple Caff draft energy drink, fell in love with sake. Inspired by what he calls an “amazing beverage,” the beer brewer embraced the possibility of creating a sake microbrewery restaurant in Minneapolis. The labor of love took him to Japan several times, where he studied the art of sake. At the same time that Richardson was becoming enamored with the drink, he was also in a love affair with Asian cuisine like many other Americans. “The synergy between the two just came together at the right time,” he says.

The idea percolated and his studies progressed, and about two years before his restaurant idea would become a reality Richardson had a chance meeting with Chris Lower, director of marketing, public relations and social media at Sterling Cross Communications. A company touting its traditional storytelling in a modern world,Maple Grove-based Sterling Cross has embraced online marketing tools. While Richardson wasn’t really thinking about how he would market his new restaurant concept at the time, his conversation with Lower spurred him to action. “I don’t want to allude to that I wouldn’t have had a plan,” Richardson says. “But I came in contact with Sterling Cross long before that segment of my responsibilities to the marketing would have come along.”

 Click HERE to read the rest of the article

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.