Why I haven’t been blogging lately…

I know I said to blog as often as humanly possible. That’s true. If you want higher Google rankings, you gotta blog your little heart out. And I haven’t been doing it. My bad.

But I can explain…

I’m getting my house ready to sell. There are painters, stainers, decorators, handymen and all manner of tradesmen running around my house, and I’m running to Home Depot, Lowe’s or Wal-Mart every day to get paint, blue tape and other redecorating essentials. So I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, as far as the blog world is concerned.

With any luck, this chaos will end within 10 days or so. So I’ll be able to return to regular blogging and living like a normal person.

Oh, wait. Living in a staged house is nothing like living normally. No wastebaskets or clocks, no free surfaces on which to place anything.

Well, as Arnold once said, I’ll be back. I just don’t know exactly when. For now, adios.

Social Media Marketing — Marketers’ New Puppy

Social media marketing is big. It’s the new best thing for marketers. Isn’t it?

According to the April 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, by Michael A. Stelzner, the answer seems to be a qualified “yes.” You see, marketers are just getting into SM marketing, and they feel as if they’re walking a new puppy on a leash for the first time without having read a Puppy 101 book.

In the report, 65% of marketers surveyed are just now dipping a toe into the SM marketing waters. So naturally, they have questions. The top three questions marketers want answered related to —

• how to measure SM marketing ROI
• what SM marketing best practices are
• how they should manage time spent on SM marketing

But querulous or not, the majority — 56% — are using SM for six or more hours a week, and close to one in three invest 11 or more hours weekly. What are they doing with SM marketing? And who is spending those hours doing it? Last year’s report indicated few companies had a designated person for SM marketing activities, or any SM marketing plan in place. But those that did thought SM marketing was helping their biz.

You can download and read this fascinating report yourself here But to me, the most interesting factoids were these:

1. The majority of marketers — 91% — indicated they were using SM for marketing purposes, with small businesses slightly more likely to be using it.

2. Most marketers — 76% — are spending at least four hours per week on SM marketing efforts. The median for those who have been into it for a few months or longer is 10 hours per week.

3. Only 14% of businesses are outsourcing any aspect of their social media marketing.

The benefits of doing SM marketing seem richer for B2B companies than B2C companies, but all companies fee that it —

• reduces their overall marketing expenses
• helps them climb in search engine rankings
• increases their traffic or subscribers/opt-in list members

And get this —

“At least 67% of marketers plan on increasing their use of blogs, Facebook, video/YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn….”

… “[M]arketers indicated that blogs were the top area in which they planned on increasing their social media efforts.”

Yet 86% of marketers said they weren’t outsourcing any of their SM marketing efforts. That’s pretty startling, but the report’s author predicts that in a year or so, as SM marketing becomes more clearly recognized as a source of business leads and sales, outsourcing will increase. It is less expensive than hiring a staff person, getting them SM marketing training, and paying them a salary and benefits.

On my small scale, at least, based on several new inquiries in the past two weeks, it seems the trend is toward outsourcing blogging. It just makes sense.

One caveat: If you’re thinking of outsourcing your company’s blogging, don’t make the mistake of throwing the work to a company employing Indian writers. I visited the website of one such company the other day and read one of their blog posts. They said their writers all speak English, but they didn’t say English was their first language. It was quite obvious that either a foreigner or a robot had written the post. You don’t want to let stilted, awkward writing represent your company. So if you’re planning to outsource your blogging or other SM marketing functions, hire American!

Update Your Blog As Often as Humanly Possible

This article explains how often you need to update your posts on various Web outlets, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

But the thing you ought to update as often as possible is your company blog. Read the article, and see why your blog is the most powerful tool in your social media marketing toolkit.

Blogging: Who Needs It?

In a networking group to which I belong, I have used the services of at least five fellow networkers. But no one has used mine. Why?

Because a lot of small businesses can’t understand for the life of them why they would need to pay someone to write blog posts — or anything — for them.

I pointed out a crucial misspelling on the business card of one member. And most small business people are too close to their own businesses to know what to say on their websites. Or don’t know how to say it clearly. And the website designs? Some make my skin crawl. Don’t get me started about pink fonts on black backgrounds.


I don’t think any of my fellow networkers think of themselves as professional writers. But they also don’t have the money to spend on “frills” like having well-written websites, blogs or e-mail newsletters. Or so they think.

Here’s a secret: If you want your small business to become a bigger business, you need to post regular blog entries to get high Google rankings and send out e-mail newsletters to your customer and prospect lists to keep them thinking about you.

It’s essential that your company remains top-of-mind with your target audience, so when the time comes that they need your service or product, they’ll call on you. Common sense, right? Once you cede that top-of-mind position, a competitor can grab the business right out from under your nose. So hang onto it for dear life. By traditional advertising? Not so much these days. Now, it’s by social media marketing.

Here’s why social media marketing works best for small businesses, versus other forms of advertising:

• Creating and placing advertising in newspapers and magazines costs a boatload of money.
Far more than most small businesses will net from the ads. Social media placement costs nothing.

• Sending out direct mail is prohibitively expensive.
Add Design + Copy (Hire it done; don’t ever try to write it yourself for *free*) + Printing + Postage. See if it adds up to profit. Response to a really good DM appeal is around 2%.

• Unfortunately, few people bother to read newspapers anymore.
So if you advertise there, who will see it?

• People are flooded with direct mail from a jillion sources.
If they’re like me, they sort mail right over the trash can and jettison anything that looks like DM. No score there.

So if people aren’t reading newspapers or DM, where the heck can you connect with them?

On the Web, silly.

Social media marketing is where it’s at these days.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other SM platforms encourage interaction, conversation and engagement, which, over time, leads to loyalty. No more is it a matter of “tell and sell,” which makes traditional blah-blah-blah advertising obsolete.

If you are going to reach out to potential customers and retain current ones effectively, you’re going to have to be present and noticed in social media. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Everybody — even your Great-Aunt Edna — shops and looks for information online these days.

So how do I attract and retain customers via social media, you may ask.

By blogging frequently (Google loves new, relevant content, changed regularly). Sending out e-mail newsletters. Maintaining a vibrant presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Anyone can establish a Twitter or Facebook account in minutes. But knowing how to communicate effectively on them is not so simple. Hire a professional communicator to do it for you. You know you don’t have the time to do it yourself; you’re busy running your business. And frankly, you know your business, but you probably don’t know writing as well.

So, in summary, here’s how a small business can make a big splash on the Internet and reach and win customers:

• Have a good website.
(easy to find, easy to use, providing useful info for your target audience).

• Blog like mad.
Be real. Be human. Establish a human connection with your prospects and customers. Offer valuable insights, knowledge and a piece of your own humanity. Regularly, consistently.

• Send out e-mail newsletters.
Not all about YOU, but about things your target audience would like to know. If you’re a tire store, how about tips on how to brake safely on ice? And by the way, we’re having a 25% off special on the best winter tires to buy.

• Finally, do not try to do these things yourself.
Hire professionals. Whether it’s design, writing, website development or anything else regarding your Web presence, you’re better off to find reasonably priced freelancers out there who are experts. You’re an expert at your business. Probably not at social media marketing.

If you are an expert in social media marketing, kudos. But you’ll have to make a choice: are you going to run your business, or are you going to take all the time to get online and do your tweets, blogs and e-mail newsletters regularly, consistently?

How much is your time worth? I’m just sayin’.

Wal-Mart sinking in a recession?

Three Modern Myths:

1. The Titanic cannot possibly sink.

2. An offshore oil drilling platform cannot possibly blow up and spew oil into the sea.

3. Wal-Mart cannot possibly fail.

“There is business opportunity in the world, but the world is changing fast in big, disruptive, complex ways,” Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke told shareholders yesterday.

You said it, Mike. You know you’re in Bizarro World when Wal-Mart, the traditional low-price leader retailer, is losing business in a recession. But Wal-Mart is infamous for beating suppliers into submission on prices. Their margins are healthy enough. So what’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong at Wal-Mart has little to do with where Wal-Mart is and everything to do with where its customers are moving, economically. Which is mainly down.

Effectively, we now have two classes: the can’t-buys and the can-buys. And neither shops at Wal-Mart.

When the recession was younger, penny-pinching middle class shoppers switched to Wal-Mart from Target or mall stores. That was a good time for Wal-Mart. But then, as the recession continued, a lot of those shoppers lost jobs and sank to lower-middle-class status. Without jobs, they sank further, to lower-class. So former Wal-Mart shoppers can’t afford Wal-Mart. Now they hunt for even lower prices at dollar stores or grocery stores.

Imagine dreaming of being flush enough to shop at Wal-Mart! This recession stuff is tough.

Meanwhile, the upper-middle class (the still-employed) can afford full-price jeans, big flat-screen TVs and new cars. The things the middle class used to buy. Lucky ducks. They don’t have to pinch every penny. So they snub Wal-Mart and shop at Target or at mall stores.

The question for Wal-Mart is, do we dig down for the penny-pinching dollar store shoppers or aim for the upscale Target shoppers? My bet is on the latter. You just can’t undercut Dollar General.

Whee! Oh...

Wal-Mart and other retailers will figure out new winning formulas, I imagine. But it won’t be easy. If my favorite economist, Robert Reich, is correct, we may be going into a double-dip recession. That means just as the economic roller-coaster cleared the apex, it’s rolling down the other side. When it will climb again, and how far, is anybody’s guess. There was some good news. That increase in employment last month. But it turns out it was largely due to the hiring of workers for the 2010 census. And that’s over with. Oh well. Read why Reich says we won’t pull out of the recession until the middle class has money again.

So what’s a retailer to do, when the economy is as unpredictable as a doodle bug on Ecstasy?

We can look to biological evolution. There have been millions of mass extinctions in the past. Those species that could adapt to changing conditions survived; others perished and ended up in the La Brea Tar Pits of failure.

Undoubtedly, some retailers will adapt successfully, and others won’t. The retail landscape will change in reaction to economic conditions. The questions are, “What will it change TO? And which retailers will be left standing?”

The Importance of Being Human

Here’s a brief, but excellent article from the Marketing Profs.

The article points out that although most marketers know that customers/clients make decisions based on emotions (where some products/services are concerned), most don’t try to forge a relationship with their target audiences.

They’re leaving out a vital component in the selling process these days.

Here’s a bit from the article:

Asked about what constitutes an emotional connection, marketers cite the following:

* Customers telling others about the brand via word-of-mouth: 78%
* The values of the brand are similar to my own: 78%
* Using the brand makes me feel good: 75%
* Customers telling others about the brand via blogging and other online activities: 61%