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Small Business Saturday marketing trends

SHOP_SMALLNovember 30th marks the fourth annual Small Business Saturday, a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country. Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 in response to small business owners’ most pressing need: more customers.

Why Shoppers Are Shopping Small

The trend for shopping small is increasing, with 35% of consumers stating that they like to shop at local small businesses, up from 27% last year. New research indicates why shoppers are drawn to small businesses for their holiday shopping

  • 57% believe it’s important to support local businesses
  • 49% are attracted to unique merchandise
  • 39% say local businesses offer personalized service and suggestions
  • 25% say area businesses typically offer good prices

Retailers Get Ready for Small Business Saturday

With five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013, many small business owners say they’ll be pulling out all of the stops to get customers into stores during the holiday shopping season.

For many of the small business owners who are aware of Small Business Saturday, the day will be a part of their promotional calendar. Of those small business owners incorporating Small Business Saturday into their holiday plans, 70% say Small Business Saturday will be helpful in attracting new customers. Additional findings from the surveyed owners reveal

  • 67% will offer discounts
  • 39% will collaborate with other small businesses to promote Small Business Saturday
  • 36% will offer coupons for future offers or discounts
  • 33% will offer a gift with purchase
  • 33% will rely on social media most to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers
  • 32% are starting their holiday promotions earlier than last year
  • 21% will increase the number of employees working on Small Business Saturday

Have you created an editorial calendar? Here are some tips (video)

Today is Veterans Day (thank you, Veterans!) and many of you are off work. If you have some downtime, you may want to take a look at these editorial calendar tips, as you start to gear up your marketing, PR and social media plans for 2014. These are easy approaches that anyone can do.

For a free MS Word editorial calendar template, email me Mary@FletcherPrince.com

Fletcher Prince

A social media editorial calendar can help you organize your content marketing efforts.

In this Social Media Week DC presentation, Mary Fletcher Jones of Fletcher Prince ‪http://www.FletcherPrince.com‬ will talk about the advantages of creating a social media editorial calendar for your business, agency, or nonprofit organization.

Mary will suggest practical tips for selecting a format and creating an editorial calendar that is right for your goals and work style. She also provides advice on scheduling and frequency for various social media channels.

Download the slides and notes for this presentation here: ‪http://www.slideshare.net/Fletcherprince

This session was recorded live at Thomas Jefferson Library in Falls Church, Virginia on February 14, 2012 for Social Media Week DC.

Please excuse the production quality; it is not up to our usual standard since this is a video taken from a Livestream broadcast on a webcam — but we promised to make…

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A great business card is a powerful budget marketing tactic

Business cards on bulletin boardI’ve asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest blog and provide us with some of their favorite creative and affordable marketing tips. 

Check out what Deborah Brody has to say about making the most of your business cards.

In this age of smart phone bumps and cloud-based contact lists, it may seem a bit old-fashioned to advocate for the business card.  But the business card should be the ace player in your budget marketing arsenal.  A business card is cheap (relatively speaking), portable and useful. It gets your information right into the hands (and hopefully, databases) of the people you connect with. Done well, a business card keeps you connected with your prospects and brings you business.

However, not any old business card will do. You should spend time (and money) to get this little piece of marketing real estate done right. If someone picks up your business card from a pile of cards, it should be immediately obvious who you are and what you do. Following are some tips to make the most of your business cards.

Spend the money to get professional graphic design. You could do this as part of a letterhead and/or logo package, if you are just starting out. You aren’t like everybody else, so why have a non-customized card? Make sure to use your colors, logo and maybe even an image.

Print your cards professionally, on good paper stock. Nothing says unprofessional more than flimsy cards printed on your ink jet printer. There are many online, digital printers that will do your cards for a fraction of the price you would pay a traditional offset printer, while making them look spectacular.

Make the best use of the space you have. This means using the back of the card, perhaps to list your services, provide your bio, offer a discount code or even have a version of your card in a different language.

Include as much information as possible, thinking of what would be relevant to someone looking to do business with you.

Information that must be on the business card includes:

  • Your name and title
  • Organization or business name
  • Website
  • Email address
  • Phone/Mobile
  • Address
  • Tagline and/or short description of what your organization does (if not obvious from the name)

Other items you may consider adding:

  • Twitter handle
  • LinkedIn information
  • Testimonials from clients
  • Skype information

Finally, a word about design: Some folks get uber creative with their business cards, and in some cases, that helps to bolster their brand or show off their design chops. However, weird card shapes may be a conversation starter or be more memorable, but they are less likely to fit in conventional card holders or card scanners. Keep that in mind. Same goes for the layout. I prefer a horizontal layout, since that is how most cards are read.

Deborah Brody, principal of Deborah Brody Marketing Communications, is a marketing writer and consultant. Read more at www.deborahbrody.com and follow her on Twitter at @DBMC .

2013 will be the year of mobile

For years, pundits have been proclaiming that mobile will finally deliver on its promise of being a major marketing and PR channel, and until very recently, that promise hasn’t materialized.

Well, all that has changed, as you’ve probably noticed.  And according to the folks at eMarketer, 2013 will truly be the year of mobile, whether the message is on smart phones, iPads, or readers.

Check out this interesting presentation from eMarketer, which is chock-full of stats and examples.

CAN-SPAM act compliance and email subject lines

5826077_sDuring the holidays and at the end of the year, it’s common for companies to send more email and make more special offers.  But be careful with those subject lines!  You want to be sure they are in compliance with the law (the CAN-SPAM Act).  You also risk annoying your recipients.

As an example, I received an email solicitation from an area publication to which I subscribe.  And from which I have bought advertising.

The subject line said “Thank you and a gift.”

I figured, okay, a little appreciation.  Nice.  I open the email.  There is no gift offer.  There is an offer of a discount, which is not that great actually, to subscribe for another year.

Was I annoyed?  You bet.  Where was my “gift?”

Does this sound innocent to you?  Calling a discount a gift, well, why not?  Just marketing speak, right?  Well, sure.  You can be cute with words in marketing for the holidays in a lot of advertising contexts, as long as you aren’t outright deceptive.

But when it comes to commercial email subject lines, the law is really clear about truth in advertising.  Everyone who works in commercial email knows this now, but I’m sharing this with you, so you don’t make the same mistake.

Your subject line has to deal with the content of your message.  Sure, it has to tempt the recipient to open it.  BUT you have to deliver on what you promise in a subject line.  For example, you cannot say in a subject line: Free cheeseburger coupon inside!  and then when the reader opens it, the body of the email mentions the caveat: with the purchase of a drink and fries.  Free offers — and all offers — mentioned in emai subject lines have to come with no strings attached.

A discount is not a “gift.”  A gift is something that is offered for free, with no expectation of return.  The subject line would have been in compliance if they had said “Special Holiday Discount for Subscription Renewals,” for example.

What is working for your holiday email marketing efforts?

Are there rules about PR? And if there are, can we break a few?

So Edelman went out on a limb this week and posted 10 Rules for PR Pros.  Granted, you can’t sum up all their intellectual capital in an infographic. Still, it provoked me to think about the practice of public relations, and where I agreed, and where I dissented.  Here they are:

I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate and point out the ways these rules can and should be broken!

1. Be flexible OR Stick to your guns.  You know, when someone at work asks you to be “flexible,” it’s not the same thing as wanting you to be “versatile.”  Versatility is a good thing. It’s good to have a panopoly of skills and it’s good to have the judgement and know-how to switch gears when required.  That’s versatility.

However, when your boss says they want you to be “flexible,” they generally want you to give up something you want, or stop doing something you want to do, or believe is right to do, so that he or she can achieve an objective. Sometimes, that’s what needs to happen to get the job done. But it should be the exception — not the rule.  And there are some lines that should not be crossed in the name of “flexibility.”

For example, your boss might want you to be “flexible” about working overtime — a lot of overtime, without necessarily getting compensation for that.  Or they might want you to be “flexible” about something you believe in, or a PR ethical issue.

Moral issues are rarely flexible. I remember raising a serious PR ethics issue at work once and I was told to be “flexible” about it. In graduate business school, most of my male peers in ethics class thought that women and minorities in the workplace should be “flexible” about things like not being able to attend events at exclusive, male-only golf clubs, when that real-life scenario was presented as a case study.

So, let me tell you. Flexibility is overrated in PR.  A moral compass is underrated. Choose to be versatile, by all means be nimble, but be wary of the “flexibility” demand.

2. Get the big story OR Get the story that makes an impact.  Okay, so news is “new.”  But there is a lot of important information that needs to get out there that isn’t “news.”  I was struck by this while reading the book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley.  She made the very good point that what makes the major news isn’t always what is most important but what is most novel or unusual.

Consider the basics: life and death.  Remember bird flu?  We did not have hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere in public places before that scare.  Bird flu has killed 606 people WORLD WIDE since 2003.  None in the U.S.  Now heart disease?  That is the number one killer.  In one year, in the U.S. alone, heart disease kills more than half a million people.   We have ALL these shows about homicide, and homicides are big news.  But homicide doesn’t even make the top ten list.

So heart disease is not a news maker.  But it is important.  The information disseminated about heart disease by people who work in PR is more vital than many “big” stories in the news.  That is basically my point: big is not always better.  Lindsay Lohan is big news this week.  Lindsay Lohan is not IMPORTANT news.

3. Be profitable — OR Turn your talents to good Nothing wrong with making some money in PR, if you work for an agency.  Of course, if you work in government PR, turning a profit is not your motivation.  Neither is nonprofit PR work.  Soooo…this rule is not universally applicable.

But this is my feeling for the agencies.  Let me tell you something about Edelman.  World’s biggest PR agency.  4,000 employees. Probably would not kill them to be a bit more involved. When I was volunteering for the PRSA-NCC, I was struck that most of the board members, volunteers, and sponsors at the chapter did not come from the big agencies in town, and that disappointed me. Part of paying your dues when you make it big is giving back. When I wrapped up my work at the chapter, my parting advice to the President was: tap those large agencies.  Make them come to the table with their resources and expertise.  Get them involved.

Pro bono work is a vital part of being a public relations professional.  It’s good for the community and it’s good for your career.  It stretches your talents.

4.  Take notes — OR Give a presentation.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t all take notes, but I think it’s easy to undervalue the contribution potential of young professionals.  So let’s not relegate them to note-taking at every meeting.  Let’s hear what they have to say.  Public speaking and presentation skills are important to develop at every stage of one’s career.  So, don’t be afraid to speak up.  Sign up for those presentations and panels!  Get noticed.

5. Don’t argue OR Stand by your convictions, and be prepared to battle for them.  This was the one that probably rubbed me the wrong way the worst, given my tendencies.  To me, telling someone not to argue is like telling them not to think critically.  There are times when you should argue with your colleagues, your boss, and your clients, and hopefully everyone is professional enough to understand that that is part of the process.

You do have to fight for your ideas, and your creative direction, at times.  It would be foolish to give every client their way in everything.  It wouldn’t serve them well, in every instance. I’m not afraid to be wrong, and I’m delighted to be right, so I’m not afraid to disagree.

Arguments — or productive discussions as I would call them — can be tremendously useful.  And hey, PR is a charged industry.  Arguments are going to happen.  People can respect a supported argument.

You know people who have relationships but say they never argue?  Those people scare me.  People who never argue are giving up too much of themselves and that is never a good thing.

6. Worry OR Stop trying so hard and have some fun!  I remember getting in an elevator with a bunch of young PR folks and they ALL snapped out their Blackberrys.  Yikes, I thought. They could not turn it off.

When you go into a lot of advertising agencies, by contrast, you are struck by the sense of fun, and the creativity in the room.  You want some laughs, hang out with the advertising folks, because there are not a lot of laughs at PR parties.  Hello? There is a reason Mad Men is about advertising and not PR! And, all joking aside, advertising agencies make more money than public relations agencies.  So there must be something in this.

As a worry-wart, yes, I believe in being conscientious and paying attention to details. But I also know that truly great and creative ideas are not born under stressful conditions.  If you take care of business, and manage client expectations, you don’t need to worry so much.  PR folks could lighten up a bit.

7.  Do a survey OR Go with your gut.  You know, you can make a survey deliver all kinds of results, depending on how you engineer it.   I’m not saying surveys are not useful.  They are.  But not every creative decision should hinge on group-consensus.

Sometimes you can be fairly confident of what will work because you have experience and judgment.  Trust in your expertise.

Another thing I learned in business school: you will NEVER have enough information to make a decision, and yet you must make one, anyway.  Don’t be afraid to be decisive.  PR is important, but it’s not THAT important.  The world will not cave in because you were wrong.

8. Be a self-starter OR Know when to ask for help.   I value initiative in a public relations professional.  But the person who also checks in, communicates on the status of projects, and is humble enough to admit he or she doesn’t know something, or needs help getting through the next step — that person is invaluable, because that person values learning and wants to learn, more than he or she wants to protect his or her ego.

So is the person who gives credit where credit is due.  Kind of rare, actually, that kind of decency.

A person who is a self-starter needs little or no supervision to accomplish goals.  That just doesn’t describe the business of PR, ordinarily.  PR usually depends on the combined efforts of a group of motivated people, working as a team (and that team usually includes clients).  And there is usually plenty of supervision involved with that, particularly at the agency level.

Knowing when to ask for help, and how to ask for it.  Just as important as taking initiative.

9. Merchandise the clippings — OR Hoot about your interactions.  I’m going to be honest here and admit I have no idea what the phrase “merchandise the clippings” means.  I Googled it and I got nada.  So, something should not be a “PR rule” if nobody knows what it means!

But if I had to guess, it would mean demonstrate those results to your client.  Well, sure.  I’m all for showing them tangible results.  Clippings rate.  But today — so do social media followers, and interactions.  And sales!  And any other meaningful outcome we are trying to achieve for a client.

So maybe someone at Edelman can clarify number 9 for us.  Then I can argue with it.

10. Remember, this is a service business OR Keep a firm grip on your soul.  Yes, PR is a service business.  So is prostitution.  There are boundaries, right?  We don’t take on every slimey client who shoves money at us.  We don’t do slimey things for our clients.   We pay our interns, and we pay our employees a fair salary.   We do things the right way.   We are honest and ethical and we give back.

We have a responsibility to our clients, but our responsibilities do not end there.  We also have responsibilities to our employees, to the people who hear our messages, to our media contacts, to the PR industry as a whole, and yeah, to our kids we tuck in at night.  We should be able to look ourselves in the mirror and be okay with everything we did that day.

Not every agency can do that.  Every agency should.

Now it’s your turn!  Argue with me, agree with me, disagree with me — do anything but take notes!

Should your business start a blog?

Can we talk about blogs for a moment?

Okay, first of all: some perspective.  A blog is not as critical to your business as, say, a logo, or a website.  You can run a business or have a nonprofit without having a blog.  Just like you can manage a business and not use advertising, or signage.

Benefits of blogging for your business or nonprofit

But blogs help. Blogs are terrific for your SEO, because all that text is searchable and all those pages link back to you.  Posting timely, helpful and interesting blog posts that people read helps you build an audience of potential clients or supporters.  They keep coming back because you’re offering value to them.

Another important benefit of creating a blog for your company is that, perhaps more than any other tactic, blogs establish you as a subject matter expert.  So, as you demonstrate again and again that you know your stuff, blogs can help you achieve that incredible marketing attribute of trust among your clients, potential clients, supporters, and even the media.

An additional benefit of blogs is that they are share-able.  It’s very easy to share blog content with a friend, through email, Twitter, Facebook, or bookmarking sites.  So your readers help expand your audience for you.

Do you have an audience for your company blog?

There are few conditions that need to be in place for blogs to work well as a marketing tactic.  The most important reason to start a blog is because you believe the people you really want to reach will find value in reading online articles about topics related to your company and industry. A minimum requirement is they have to enjoy reading about that topic.

For blogs to make sense for your business or organization, your existing and potential clients/supporters must have the time and ability to access the Internet.  This is not quite a universal tendency.  Your customers or supporters just may not happen to be online article-readers.

Still, for most companies and nonprofits, there are enough CEOs, journalists, and influencers who read online articles that will make it worth your while to create a branded blog for your company.

Of course, at Fletcher Prince, we are wildly enthusiastic about blogs and what they can accomplish.  I’ve been blogging since 2006 and I have several blogs myself.   This is the 605th blog post I’ve written for Fletcher Prince.  I’ve created blogs for clients and I’ve taught people how blog and manage blogs.  But if you think your target audiences won’t read and value your blog, then consider other marketing approaches, such as advertising, or video.

The ingredients of a successful blog

Let’s say that you believe there is an audience for your blog, and you are potentially interested in creating a blog, or making over your existing blog.  What else do you need to take into consideration?

Well, blogs work when the writing works.  People who are passionate about their topic make good writers.  So if you have someone in your organization who loves to write, may already be blogging, and is passionate about your company, you have a tremendous resource on your hands.

However, that resource may require some tending to reach its full potential.  Plenty of bloggers start well, but stop blogging on a regular basis.  An organized blogger is just as important as a creative one.

How can you sustain the blog effort over time?  You approach it like any other long-term marketing strategy.   It would be helpful, for example, to start with a plan that outlines your goals, topics, audiences, timelines, team, and promotional tactics.   You may find that an editorial calendar organizes your efforts.  What you will discover is that blogging is a commitment of time, talent, and resources.  It has to pay off for it to be worth it, and those benefits may be long-term, rather than immediate.  So some faith and patience is also required.

Fletcher Prince can help your company blog get off to a great start

At Fletcher Prince, we can’t create the passion in those writers for you.  People either love to write or they don’t.  But we can coach them, help them get organized, teach them how to write for online audiences, help develop a blog plan and an editorial calendar, design and launch the blog, and show you how to track and measure results.

Talk to us if you’d like us to help you launch a blog, makeover your existing blog, or coach your team to become expert bloggers.

Is it good form to ask for followers?

Occasionally, you will see the administrator of a Facebook Page or Twitter profile post an update asking for followers.  Often, it’s associated with a goal, e.g., let’s get 10,000 followers by such and such date or time.

Does this tactic work?  And more importantly, should it be used?  Can it backfire for your brand?

I was thinking about this as I read the response of some fans when the Facebook Page owner of a Page I follow, Daym Drops, posted a request for more Twitter followers on his Facebook Page.

Now, this guy recently vaulted to YouTube viral stardom — which can be a short-lived and wild ride — so it’s easy to understand why he’s trying to make the most of it, quickly.

Fam, as I look at my Fam Follow on Twitter; it is all types of nappy and unhappy. (1,759)..Can we hit 2,000 before midnight? Let’s DO THIS!

Well, for one thing, asking for Twitter followers on Facebook is like assuming people like sushi if they also like Chinese food.  It’s not necessarily so.  And one of his Facebook fans didn’t hesitate to tell him, in a nice way, that she preferred Facebook.

I don’t have a twitter account.. dint like it .. I don’t like to feel restricted… n u know us Latinas have a lot to say 🙂

I’ve emphasized before that Facebook and Twitter, while both are social networks, are two different entities with different personalities and uses and these should be approached and treated differently.  And this just illustrates how you cannot give someone sushi when they want kung pao chicken.

But back to the ask.  Calls to action (or CTAs, for short) are tricky on social media. Are they necessary? Yes.  But there is a way to make the ask, and maybe this wasn’t it.  And who knew?  We are all learning.  Often, it’s the community that tells us what works, and what doesn’t.  What struck me were the kindly intentioned but direct responses of two of his Facebook Fans to his ask for Twitter followers (please pardon the crude language):

Hey man, you are f’ing awesome and sh!t… But don’t get greedy on followers. Just be your awesome self, and followers will show up anyways 🙂

 

Yeah, keep having fun with it and everything else will come along. The second you start thinking you deserve things, you start losing the respect of the people already following you.

Significantly, he did not make his 2,000 Twitter follower goal.  So, maybe there is a lesson here for businesses and nonprofits.  Don’t push your luck too quickly, too soon.  Let the fans come to you.  Do what you do best, and you will earn the reputation.  Focus on what you already have and on engaging your current fans.

Does this mean we stop using advertising, or PR, or social media to try and attract more attention for our services, products, or missions?  No!  Especially for other types of brands, a more assertive approach may be warranted.  Just — keep it real on social media.  It’s important not to lose sight of the fundamentals, or force your hand.

But it’s also very true on social media that if you have earned the love and respect of fans, then they will forgive the fumbles you may make occasionally.  And we all make those fumbles, self included!

Congratulations, Daym Drops, on your new success!  Count me among your fans 🙂

Just for fun, here is one of his funny fast food reviews…

Market it like Mae West

“It’s not what I do, but the way I do it. It’s not what I say, but the way I say it.”  — Mae West

Mae West knew how to use what she had to maximum advantage

Let’s talk about some Mae West marketing 🙂  When you compare Mae West with any other person, they have the same basic elements in common, more or less.

But Mae West became a star because she understood how people consumed those assets, and she knew how to play them up to her best advantage.  She made minor adjustments that paid off tremendous dividends.  That’s what made her a star.

Think about the companies and organizations that attract attention.  They may have the same assets as others.  But the difference is: they know how to work it.  And that pays off for them.

Everyday, I see organizations and companies with great assets: blogs, videos, websites, advertisements.  And they have often invested significant resources in producing them.  But they miss out on communications opportunities, because they may not fully understand how these assets are consumed, or how to make them more searchable.  Or, they have failed to brand them.

At Fletcher Prince, we help businesses, associations, and nonprofits start from scratch with website projects, email marketing campaigns, and social media endeavors.  But we also enjoy helping clients better understand how to take what they have and work it!

Starting with an audit of your resources — or looking at just one element, such as your YouTube Channel or Facebook Page — we can tell you how to make that communications vehicle work harder for you — with adjustments in branding, optimization, and organization.  Makeover services, if you will.

If you already have a social media program, or other communications program in place, talk to us about how we can help you improve it.

As Mae West would say, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”

A spoonful of measurement helps the marketing show results

It may sound a little “Mary Poppins,” but when I think about my approach to measuring marketing and social media results, I think of it as a “spoonful of measurement.”

Like many sensible options, it’s just enough for what I need to track, not more.  I wanted to share my approach because I think it’s a practical one for sole practitioners, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations on a budget. Read the rest of this entry

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