General

While small business news has not been extremely positive over the past few months, marketing expert and founder of Managed Marketing Charles Gaudet said that business owners can adapt to become a competitor in any market.

Small business has the advantage of being nimble and having the ability to respond quickly to change. Always assuming the business owner/s are willing to make the necessary changes! In today’s marketplace, that often gives small businesses a massive advantage.

“A business Insider survey of 16 small business owners in San Francisco who have done business with Groupon found that more than half of of the owners would not want to do another Groupon deal.”

This is not the sort of publicity Groupon want.  Mind you, it’s long been rumoured that doing deals through Groupon can be quite a financial burden for businesses.  So this is hardly surprising news!

http://www.123print.com/News/More-than-half-of-small-businesses-don-t-want-to-do-a-Groupon-deal–293#

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Being female, I must admit that the tendency to market to women simply by making something PINK cheese me off in a big way. So I had a good chuckle reading this article! Who the heck thought of Animee for a wine cooler thingy??

Savvy business to business marketers realize that social media involves much more than opening corporate accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Today, social media offers B2B marketers significant, quantifiable and predictable results. This column explores the top four reasons B2B marketers should engage in a proactive, social media program, and offers specific tips on getting started.

4 Tips to Launch Your Business into Social

1. Influence Your Online Reputation

Social media represents an open forum. Whether you participate or not — your industry, and probably your business, are being discussed online. You may not like it, but customers definitely have the power to share their opinions, and they do: the good, the bad and the ugly.

At a minimum, all businesses should monitor this conversation. This is a great way to “keep your thumb on the pulse” of your customers’ thoughts, feelings needs and desires.

If you’re new to social media, the best advice is to start small. Google Alerts, BlogPulse, and Technorati are a few examples of simple (and free) social monitoring tools.

2. Better Position Your Brand

Even if users aren’t directly engaging with your brand online, social networks provide a significant opportunity to build B2B brand awareness, improve your market positioning, and increase purchase intent.

According to a recent eMarketer article, 70% of experienced social marketers track the number of brand mentions across social networks as a key marketing success metric.

A study conducted by DDB Worldwide and OpinionWay Research indicates that 36% of people who follow a brand on Facebook are more likely to purchase from that brand than before.

3. Engage Prospects & Customers

In addition to brand building, social networks are a great place to engage with prospects and customers.

Forrester has published a report on B2B social marketing, and has been blogging on this topic as well. Their research indicates: business buyers are increasingly “going social” when they first realize that they have a problem and are looking to learn from and interact with experts in their problem space.

This means that B2B marketers should use social media to interact with prospects earlier in their problem-solving cycles in order to demonstrate thought-leadership and expertise.

Another way for B2B marketers to engage with prospects is via highly-targeted social advertising channels. For example, LinkedIn’s DirectAds Program allows you to target professionals by industry, company size, seniority, job function, location and more.

While this type of ad targeting generates significantly fewer impressions and clicks than traditional PPC advertising (on Google, for example)… respondents tend to be much more qualified and many B2B marketers realize a superior ROI.

4. Improve Customer Service

Social media channels allow your company to monitor opinions, reach out to customers on a personal level, and let them know their feedback (whether positive or negative) is always being taken into consideration.

Here are four suggestions for handling negative customer feedback obtained via social channels:

  1. Be completely transparent and honest (i.e. admit your mistake)
  2. Do something remarkable to rectify the situation.
  3. Proactively respond. Try to recreate a similar story and conclude with a better outcome.
  4. Don’t make the same mistake twice!

Don’t Miss Your Social Opportunity

Social Media is definitely maturing as a legitimate B2B marketing tool. If you’re still ignoring this channel, you’re missing out on a terrific way to cost-effectively build your brand, improve your reputation, engage with prospects and customers, and improve your overall customer service.

B2B marketers… it’s time to get social.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Social Media is everywhere, and this article is really helpful for businesses who want to market to other businesses, rather than individuals.

Q: Hey, Steve – So I recently took the plunge. For various reasons I left my corporate gig of 10 years and ventured off on my own. I have always wanted to be my own boss. But my question and problem is this: How can I compete against large companies like my former employer? I am small but don’t want to look small and definitely we do not act small, but we also don’t have their budget and manpower.

A: Funny, I was recently speaking about this very subject with Rowan Trollope, Group President for Small and Medium Business and cloud services at Symantec (a company I do some work with). Rowan was telling me the story of a friend of his who owns a small business based here in the U.S. but who has a robust global presence. His pal definitely competes with the big boys, and does so very effectively.

His secret? Software as a Service (SaaS).

You might have heard of SaaS, many small business people have. But it also remains a bit of a hazy subject for many, and that’s too bad because, like the small business above, SaaS is an affordable, powerful way to run and expand a small business. SaaS is a way for SMBs to get vital IT services, affordably, online, and on-demand.

It is a great way to be small but look big.

Essentially, SaaS is a way to deliver software, especially business applications, over the Internet. Instead of buying programs, you use the software over the Net as a service. Among other advantages, with SaaS, there is no huge front-loaded investment, the services are incredibly reliable, and you can also reduce your need for IT support. Some of the more common SaaS offerings include Basecamp for project management, the aforementioned Symantec’s cloud services, and Salesforce.com for customer relationship management.

Aside from many other advantages, Trollope explained that SaaS allows small businesses to get advanced technology – technology often associated with large corporations – at small business prices.

Example: Let’s say that you have a team that works remotely. Instead of buying some expensive project management software, installing it on servers or laptops, protecting it, having to update it every year, etc., using the same sort of program as a SaaS application allows your team to access the program from anywhere, on any laptop, and for a lot less money than buying the whole suite for a lot of users.

Or how about all important areas of small business data security and backup services? Of course, this is where my associates at Symantec excel, but the point is, using SaaS to secure data is smart for businesses large and small alike.

Not long ago I was working on my new book. I usually back up my work fairly often, but for some reason had not in a while. Then I lost a chapter of the book. That is when I went to SaaS for all of my backup needs.

The issue is even more vital and more acute when we are talking about businesses with more data. While we all know by now that securing that data and backing it up is critical (some of us learn the hard way), it does not always happen on a regular basis, and when there is a problem like

• A crash, or

• A hacker attack, or

• A virus or phishing scam, or

• A theft of computers, etc.

That lack of foresight becomes not only a major blunder but potentially a security nightmare.

Again, this is where SaaS can even the playing field. The ability to store, secure, and retrieve data offsite is the sort of thing that only used to be the providence of big businesses, but SaaS makes it affordable, doable, global, and smart for small businesses now too. Even with our more limited resources, SaaS gives us a level of sophistication that was unheard of even a generation ago.

Bottom line, as Rowan Trollope says, “SaaS makes your small business more effective and better able to compete – against anyone!”

Appearing big enough to compete is often a challenge for small businesses, so make sure you read this and think about how you might be able to utilize these ideas.

Late last week, in a move that was apparently spurred by threats of an FTC investigation, Google removed third-party reviews and listings from their Places pages in the Local/Maps results. This change was intended to help thwart complaints by sources like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Citysearch who claimed that Google unfairly used their content to make the Places pages results useful without compensation or traffic.

Below is a visual of the change via the WSJ:

Google Removes Citations from Local/Places Pages

Impact on Local/Maps/Places SEO

Unfortunately, this move has a strong negative consequence for SEOs, web marketers and local businesses trying to improve their rankings (or earn a listing) in Google Places results. In particular, the popular tactic of researching the citation sources of competitors and fellow business listees in a city/region via their Places pages is now defunct.

Since citations are like links for SEO/rankings in Google Places, this change is going to be tough on many citation researchers and local optimizers.

Other Options for Local Citation Discovery

Thankfully, there are other ways to find the sources Google may be using to resource their Places data.

#1: Identify Aggregators in the Standard Search Results

This is as basic as it sounds. Just perform a query and seek out the aggregators – those that rank in the top few pages of results that list multiple local businesses. Not only is this a useful activity for Places SEO, it can also help drive direct traffic and brand awareness (e.g. Getting a listing on Yelp isn’t just good for Google SEO, it’s a great idea because lots of people use Yelp to find local businesses). 

Aggregators of Local Business Results in Google

In the screenshot above, I’ve pointed to several well-known aggregators that are likely good sources for a listing/citation if a business is targeting Seattle Ice Cream results.

#2: Perform Competitive Research Using Google’s Standard Results

You don’t need the citations listed in the Places pages to find where a business is earning listings/links/references. You can use good, old, regular Google results:

Molly Moon's Competitive Analysis

The screenshot above shows one way to do this – grab a listing from the Local/Places results and use the combination of the business’ phone number and name to see where they’re mentioned on the web. This also works with any combination of address, business name, cityname, etc. It’s likely the most simple and direct way to replace the old competitive citation analysis method.

#3 – Search for Multiple Businesses at Once (Co-Citation)

Another simple option is to query Google for several businesses at once in hopes of finding pages/sites that have listings for several places.

Multiple Business / Co-Citation Search

The example in the screenshot above is a very simplistic one – you may want to combine this with phone numbers/addresses to help identify more listing-focused sites.

#4 – The WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder Tool

Darren Shaw’s great citation finding tool has long been a staple of Places SEO research, and since it uses a methodology similar to tactic #2 above, it’s not affected by Google’s change to the Places pages.

WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder

Just plug in a search as shown in the image above, and the tool will return a list of potential places to acquire a citation/listing. It takes a while to run (up to 24 hours in my experience), but is remarkably useful.


Undoubtedly, these four aren’t the only options for local citation research. If you’ve got more suggestions/ideas for ways to do this, please leave them in the comments below!

p.s. Many thanks to David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal for their contributions and help in understanding this change and offering alternatives.

Interesting article – Google Places is certainly still a platform undergoing tweaking.

South Korean subway commuters are now able to shop on-the-go as they wait for their trains with Tesco Homeplus installing virtual stores on train platforms.

In an aim to grow their customer reach without the need to grow their store footprint and increase traffic to their online store, Tesco has mounted images of life-size supermarket shelves with products on them as billboards in the subway.

Using smartphone technology, commuters can take photos of corresponding QR codes of the products they wish to purchase, check-out online and have the goods shipped to their home.

To see the technology in action click here.

The mind boggles….

Inbound Marketing Means Action

The world of marketing in general is changing at such a rapid pace that many feel that success is defined as being able to just keep pace. Innovation and change are part of life but the real life application of innovations and changes are not always the result.

The concept of inbound marketing has been one of the seminal changes that have hit marketers right between the eyes in recent years. As marketers, we historically live in a push advertising world, which is content with putting advertising messages in places that are thought to be where prospects and customers congregate thus hopefully catching them at the right moment so they can make a decision for a product or service. Essentially marketing that is pushed upon the consumer is just as reliant on luck and chance as it is skill. Not much to bank ROI arguments on, huh?

Now the world is moving to a pull marketing paradigm which is inbound marketing. The basic concept being that rather than throw bait out where we think the fish might be, we are to create bait that lures the right fish to it. The idea is that those who come to you and your message are already further along the buy cycle path than those who are simply reminded that they may need your product or service. By acknowledging that they are interested in your ‘bait’ they imply that they are interested in your offering.

Along with the fundamental shift that is taking place comes a fundamental change in the attributes of the new world marketer. Marketing has always been about numbers. Even that focus has shifted a bit in that the numbers to be focused on are not the traditional demographics that give us some comfort that the target market might be there. Instead the numbers that define success are centered on a more targeted prospect.

So this new approach to marketing is all about action. It takes a different kind of marketer to get this fundamental shift. Here are a few attributes that define the new inbound marketing mindset that focuses on A.C.T.I.O.N.

It’s worth checking out the full article – the 5 attributes of an inbound marketing mindset are very interesting!

I’m very excited!  I’ve just finished checking the proof of my new book, 23 Ways to Market Your Business Online.  So hopefully I’ll have a complete proof copy very shortly, and it will be published not long after that.  Woohoo!!!

Pay Using Your Phone!

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The days of making sure you leave the house with your keys, wallet and phone are seriously numbered….