Friday, January 21, 2011

Email Marketing – Not As Easy As It Sounds…

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It seems almost every time I am driving to see a client or to have a meeting, I hear a radio ad for a DIY “email marketing system”. The ads make it sound so simple – “sign up for a low monthly fee and you will instantly be using email marketing to grow your business and communicate with your customers” ----um---not really!
I literally cringe every time I hear these ads because I know many business owners and entrepreneurs are falling for this concept. And gosh, it does sound wonderful – but it just ain’t so.
I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble who has just signed up for one of these services. I’m hoping some of you have this on your “to do“ list and haven’t gotten to it yet. Hopefully this will save you in time so that you can contact me or someone else who knows these systems and can REALLY explain how they work—and HOW MUCH WORK they really are.
See, there are laws around email marketing. You know, you’ve heard of SPAM? And, there are more laws all of the time to protect people from receiving unwanted junk emails. (We could debate this point though because I believe in the freedom of choice. Additionally, I might want to buy what you are offering, but you aren’t allowed to email me so I can’t -- but we can discuss that another day.)
 Back to the laws… Have you ever received email or even postal mail for that matter and wondered, “Where do these people get my address?”  Well, there are companies, a lot of them, that buy and sell lists with your info on them. Have you ever signed up for a free trial of something and checked off “ok” to the privacy policy statement checkbox (no - none of us have really read the policy statement and they count on that) and then all of a sudden you begin to get emails from EVERYWHERE trying to sell you EVERYTHING? Well, their policy statement (that none of us read) probably said something politically correct like, “We don’t plan, at this time, to sell your data to another person or entity, but we remain the right to do so”.  And then, poof, tomorrow they exercised their right to sell your data: name, address, phone number, email address, and whatever other info you gave them to get your free trial.
If you don’t know these laws and send emails using these cool and easy email marketing systems to people who have never done business with you or didn’t give you permission to email to them, you can get into a lot of trouble. There are mighty fines for SPAMMING. In addition, there is an organization - actually a couple of them - that will BLACKLIST you.  You will be prevented from sending any more emails through that cool and easy system you purchased because the cool and easy system doesn’t want the reputation or ramifications of being a vehicle to allow you to SPAM. Even if you bypass the cool and easy system and load up a bunch of emails via your own email account and send unwanted emails, you can get BLACKLISTED and it is HARDER to get UN-BLACKLISTED than I can tell you. Not to mention, most business owners, entrepreneurs and even very bright people don’t even know where to begin to get UN-BLACKLISTED! And, this is only one portion of the many laws surrounding email marketing that can make your life miserable, give your business a bad rap and cause you to lose customers.
If I haven’t scared you enough by shedding a little light on the laws surrounding email marketing, then let me give you another, VERY BOTTOM LINE REASON, that you do not want to sign up for one of these systems without talking with an expert first. They are extremely time consuming. Not only do you have to have permission to send to the email addresses that you send to, but the systems themselves require that the data be formatted a certain way and some systems are extremely cumbersome and make you enter each email address one-by one! Again, most business owners, entrepreneurs and even very bright people don’t have the time for this – they have a business to run! In addition to the formatting, the emails must include an “opt out” so that people can tell you to stop sending them emails. Well, this requires you to maintain this data and delete them or one of the other laws about email marketing can “get you”. You have to look them up in the email system that you bought and delete them. And again, most systems require you to do this ONE BY ONE. Sound fun? Well, not only is it not fun, but it is time consuming and takes more time away from you doing your job of running your business. So as it eats away at your productivity which equates to the bottom line, you are now actually losing money with this cheap and easy email marketing system.
Scared now? I hope so.
Now, this probably sounds like I am against any and all of these email marketing systems and I AM NOT. In fact, they are a great idea and can be a good tool to increase loyalty, up-sell to existing customers and even gain new customers through referrals when you KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If you don’t, it can be a nightmare and a waste of your hard earned dollars and a black mark on your business. If I had it my way, there would be a disclaimer, probably spoken very fast, at the end of those commercials I hear on the radio. It would state something like, “Consult a professional who knows what they are doing before you buy this system and definitely before you use it.” You know, those disclaimers that finance companies, car companies and anyone else offering a “deal” has to state when making a claim on the radio? That’s what I want to hear after those wonderful email marketing system commercials! Then, at least, I would feel like someone was looking out for you and alerting you that there are ramifications to misusing systems like this.
Well, I hope that at a minimum I have convinced you that EMAIL MARKETING IS NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Announcing Affordable Social Media Marketing Turn Key Program

As one entrepreneur said about Social Media Marketing, “Just thinking about adding that to my plate makes me exhausted – even though I know if I want to compete in today’s world - I must do it”.
Adding Social Media to your Marketing Mix shouldn’t be that difficult. And now, it isn’t.
Welcome to a Turn Key Social Media/Marketing Program that is reasonable priced and has proven to get fantastic results.
The three key ingredients to the program are what make it so easy to start, affordable and a profit generator.
The Three Keys are
1.       Affordability – No set up fees, No up-front training or consultation fees – just a low $50/hr rate that can easily be billed to clients at $75 with a healthy margin for the service providers who need to deliver Social Media Marketing to their clients.
2.       Low Monthly Minimum Hours Commitment – Some clients, like start ups, authors, entertainers, artists, photographers, restaurants, sole proprietorships, etc. can start the program with as a little as a 5 hour a month commitment for a period of 3 months. After the 3 months, there is no obligation to continue; although most not only continue but increase their hours due to great results.
3.       Measurement and Reporting – The current status of the client is provided, monthly, outlining the growth results achieved in the Social Media Arena. Most clients find this useful but already know the program is working as they are realizing results in contacts, leads demand and/or sales.   

If this sounds like something you would like to hear more about for your business or for your clients, please feel free to contact Mary at

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Social Media is NOT as Daunting as it Seems!

I was speaking with a successful entrepreneur who, like most, felt the pinch of the Recession.  As we talked about some event ideas to create traffic, I asked her about her Social Media Marketing Program. Her response was one I have heard time and time again. She said, “Every time I think of it - I get exhausted”. 
Recently, I attended a Marketing and PR luncheon and most of the people there were in services.  As we went around the table and talked about ourselves, many people expressed the fact that their clients were demanding Social Media Services from them and many confessed that they were struggling to deliver it fast enough.
The entrepreneur I mentioned and the professionals at the lunch I attended are not alone. I often get a blank stare or an honest response like the ones above when I ask entrepreneurs, business and marketing professionals about their Social Media. Because I hear this so often and read so many blogs, posted questions, articles, etc. about how stumped a lot of people still are with this topic, I previously wrote a blog explaining why Social Media is one of the top areas to outsource now.  Here’s a link to that blog in case you missed it:
The task of building and maintaining Social Media seems (and sometimes is) tedious. It also feels to most entrepreneurs like it is yet another thing they have to do every day and they can’t imagine where they would find the time.  Most entrepreneurs work more hours than two full time jobs already. The thought of learning how to perform Social Media is overwhelming.  In addition, they do not know the tricks of the trade to shorten the hours spent at it. The good news is:  the professional Social Media Marketers do!
Please don’t ignore Social Media Marketing. Please don’t think it will go away. Please don’t think it is a fad. Please don’t think it can wait – it can’t. Technology is changing at lightning speed in our time and changes are occurring daily in the Social Media Marketing area as well. Your business cannot afford to ignore Social Media marketing any longer.
The first thing your customers are doing before they contact you is checking you out on the web. Don’t you want them to find messaging that you have prepared? Don’t you want to communicate messages to those who care enough to follow you on Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc.? I don’t think you want them to find that one posting on a random site by a cranky customer, do you? Imagine if that was all they found on you?
As a constant learner, builder and problem solver, I still believe the old statement that you don't throw the baby out with the bath water . For this reason, my services have always included  traditional strategies as well as new technology solutions to produce the best results. There are circumstances where one may work better than the other; or one may fit a business model better at a certain stage in its growth. But, in the area of Social Media, it is imperative that if you don’t have it in place already, that you get it in place as fast as you can with competent individuals. Social Media is NOT a DIY project.
After listening to so many business owners express their feelings of being under-equipped to take on Social Media – even though they realize its value, I decided to help. I have pulled together a talented group of Social Media Marketers who are well educated, extremely skilled specialists, amazingly quick and hard working.The program was developed to be intentionally affordable so that everyone can get going in the area of Social Media. Some marketing services even outsource to us so that they can provide this service to their customers in a turn-key fashion.  I don’t want any viable business to be left behind or to fail because they didn’t embrace Social Media soon enough. So, if I can help you in this area, contact me now .
Take the bull by the horns and as you’ve heard before, a good offense is always better than a good defense.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Repost From November - BUT OH SO IMPORTANT!

Know When To Hold Em' - Know When To Fold 'Em - Touche Caroline!

Know when to hold ‘em – know when to fold ‘em. This is great advice in poker, life and also in business.
As I was thinking of writing a blog about the importance of knowing what NOT to do and how it is just as important as knowing what to do, I got this post from a very sweet friend and business woman who has made a life changing decision. She is going to close the retail sales of her product at the end of the year, take a break and re-strategize the business model. This take guts ladies and gentlemen. And as a consultant and executive in SMBEs to Fortune 500 businesses, this is seldom done, when often it should be.  
As those of you who have worked with me or know me from my blog(s), I  consult in three areas: marketing, operations and business strategy. The very easiest thing to do is tell a client that most things are fine but if they do “this” and/or “that”, their business will rebound, survive or grow. The MOST difficult conversation (remember this is often with the person who is paying you) is to tell the client that it is time to pull up the tents and go home.
Now, don’t get me wrong, most businesses still have life left in them, but some have run their course or LTV (Life Time Value). You see LTV not only applies to a singular product, but it applies to a complete business model sometimes. The ship has sailed – as they say. Some businesses have a short life span and others longer ones.  I’m sure that you can think of products (which entire businesses were set around) that no longer exist. Let’s do some easy pickin’ and call out beta and vhs. They had their time. There were businesses (especially manufacturing niches) that were built around them and now they are gone. Some of them were able and had the capital to retool for newer technologies, but some did not and had to see the handwriting on the wall and do the unpleasant but necessary action of closing the doors.
 I applaud the ones that ask for help (like from someone like me) when they see things declining and call for help early enough to get help and an outside and unbiased opiniom. (Yes, even though they pay the bill, I am honest and tell them the bad news too! –I’m not saying it is easy ;) – but I do it.) And if called in early enough, often the business can be saved with minor, sometimes major tweaks. The exception to this is when the news of change is met with resistance.
There are organizational structures where staff resistance can put you right out of business and it is so unfortunate, because those employees don’t see that they are resisting themselves right out of a job! In this volatile environment a “go with the flow” attitude is best for everyone. The worst scenario is when the resistance to change comes from the top. When this occurs, the best advice is an introduction to a good bankruptcy attorney and inform the client that this is the Option B to change. Most choose change. Unfortunately, some don’t and I wish them the best and leave a detailed change strategy in their hands (along with the BK attorney contact info) and leave. I’ve watched ships sink and it isn’t fun. So unless I am hired specifically to close up shop, which I have been several times, then I prefer to leave it in the hands of its leader and wish for the best. After all – miracles do happen! Although there wasn't a huge resurgence and demand for vhs, there could have been, right?!
So enough about my views on this and onto a real life example of a leader taking an extremely bold step and closing shop to take the time to re-strategize. Bravo to you, Caroline! I know you will reemerge with greatness –whatever that may be for you in the future.
Here’s a repost of her blog. It is boldly written with heart, brains and thoughtfulness and I commend the decision. (I also happen to love the product – which leads me to make a small plug for the DEAL you can get on it now as they sell off inventory. The product is a t-shirt with a positive affirmation written backwards. So, as you look in the mirror—as those of you who do affirmations and follow law of attraction concepts know you are to do – you can read your affirmation to yourself. It is brilliant, creative and fun and I do hope to see the product return sooner rather than later.
This has been such a very difficult year for so many. We all may think we have been “hit hard”, but trust me, others have it worse. Please visit a local food pantry and even if it is a canned item –drop something off with thankfulness for all that you have.