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I’m Using Social Networks And It’s A Waste of Time

July 22nd, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Mardy-CRA-Oct2011
I still hear that social media is a waste of time from attendees in a workshop, students in a business class, at business-networking events, and sometimes at a chance meeting.

There are still large groups of entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that have yet to try social media. Or, they have tried social media and found it to be a total waste of their time.

Well, I love a challenge so I will often ask them about which social networks they joined and what they did with them. The answers are relatively the same each time.

‘Well, we set up the profiles and posted things about the company, product or service.’ They might have even set up a coupon or campaign of some sort. Yet, nothing materialized. I even hear what a waste of time blogging is, and again, when asked to describe their efforts it goes like this – ‘we set up a blog and hired someone to write posts using our keywords.’

I have no doubt that these efforts failed to earn any results. In support of the further complaints of social media being a waste of time, the point is that no time was really spent and no real effort invested, and as the old profits of yore said, ‘you reap what you sow’.

Here’s what went wrong: Read more…

Eight Ways To Get You Paid Faster

June 30th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Freight-invoiceHow Does Your Invoice Reflect On Your Brand?

This probably isn’t even a question that has come to mind. Companies that produce receipts at the time of purchase think about contact information and coupons, but businesses that produce invoices for their products or services seem to put little thought into the design of their invoices.

This recently came up while I was conducting a communications audit for a new client, and again as I was teaching a branding class. The attention to details placed on invoices typically has to do with the listing of items, pricing, surcharges, taxes, totals, terms, addresses and remittance details. Standard templates are often used and for the most part all appear to look the same – boring, uninspired, and truthfully – down right rude.

Getting paid for services rendered or items supplied is the single most important part of a business’s health and financial well-being, and yet so little thought is put into the design and content from a branding and marketing perspective.

I’m also guessing that businesses work on the assumption that an accounting department clerk or general administrative staff person is the only one who will see the invoice and so there is no need to dress it properly. You would be wrong on several levels here. First, someone in management or possibly even an owner may review invoices for approval first, and those staff people – they can be the grease or the cog in the wheel to getting you paid.

The invoice is the last touch in a transaction and has as much weight as a proposal or estimate. The opportunity to stand apart from your competitors, an opportunity to cement your brand, and a moment of truth that they made a good decision to do business with you and hope to again exist with your invoice.

Go ahead, pull out one of your invoices and take a good look. Then pull out your logo, your tag line – or brand promise, and your mission statement and evaluate how your invoice reflects on your brand.

I’m guessing you’re thinking that it is okay. The invoice is doing the job it was intended to do, but ask yourself – can it be more? Can the invoice communicate a meaningful difference between you and your competitor, or help to make this part of the transaction something they would actually look forward to, or possibly generate another order right on the spot?

The following are some suggested changes to make, and who knows, your clients might actually look forward to your invoices.

  1. Most invoices are emailed these days so go ahead and use your color logo.
  2. Even if you print and mail your invoices, don’t come off as a cheap-o with just black and white. Use your color printer to show off your logo, in fact think about using color elsewhere on the invoice to highlight some important information.
  3. Don’t leave out your tag line. Why not remind your clients why they bought from you in the first place.
  4. How about saying, “THANK YOU” or “It was a pleasure to serve you”, being polite and expressing, a little gratitude can go a long way to getting you paid and a repeat order.
  5. Not only say thank you, but also you might add “if you have any questions or if we can be of further service, please don’t hesitate to call us at 555-555-5555.”
  6. Keep things interesting and change up an additional message, like some of these examples – of course you can customize them to fit your own business model:
    • Please let us know how we did by taking a short performance survey (and provide a url to a survey).
    • We enjoyed doing business with you so much use this promo code to get a discount on your next order.
    • Getting paid quickly is our goal, so we are happy to offer a 2% discount if you can pay us in net 10 days.
    • While no one likes to get bills, we hope you’ll enjoy this free cup of coffee on us as a way of saying thank you. (Include a gift card if you are mailing your invoice.)
    • Did you hear the news yet? You get a 2% discount if you pay us in net 10 on line (or direct deposit).
    • If you were pleased with our service, we’d really appreciate it if you would take a moment and give us a rating on Yelp (or Facebook or Google).
    • Now let’s talk about the communications process – don’t wait until the invoice is past due to reach out. Send an email with a statement several days in advance saying something like “We like to help our clients keep in good standing. Your invoice will be due shortly so we just wanted to double check that our records match and that you have a timely payment scheduled. Please take a moment and compare the attached statement to your records and don’t hesitate to contact us at 555-555-5555 if you have any questions.
    • You can even send an email communiqué on the exact due date if payment has not yet been received and say something to the effect of – “Goodness, your payment was due today and we have no record of receiving a check from you. If you sent it then you can relax, but if you forgot, you might want to rush payment so you can avoid interest charges.”

So, now that you have your invoice out in front of you and you’ve read this post, check your average days outstanding. Implement these ideas and check to see if there is an improvement.

Emails That Can’t Be Read

June 16th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 10.58.21 AMGoodness, the year is 2014 and companies and organizations still aren’t getting email right. While I could go on and on about poor practices in email marketing, I thought I would focus this post on just one point – hopefully to effectively get the point across so that you don’t make this mistake.

I realize I posted on email marketing fails just last month, but that post covered several points on the topic.  This post is dedicated to images in emails, or more accurately – your image as the email.

Why must your entire email be an image? I don’t understand what it is that you think we are going to see. Today’s technical environment is one of safety and speed so images don’t download automatically. Most people get their emails today on their smart phones or tablets first – and they are usually set to not download images automatically either.

So, if you were sending an email blast out as part of a marketing effort – why would you set yourself up for failure? The image in this post is from an email that I received this morning. This is not uncommon, but this morning it triggered a ‘what the…’ for me. There is not one single word to be seen until I scroll all the way to the bottom (note to readers – notice that I said I had to scroll all the way down to see anything – hint, hint). Read more…

Your Brand Message – Is it a Repeatable Message?

June 6th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

Branding-BBLLCWe all want repeat customers and understand the value of a referral customer, and we crave the customer who can’t think of having it any other way.

If you are just starting out in your entrepreneurial journey or if you’ve been around awhile and are considering a brand refresh, you’ll want to spend some time on your message. Spend time working on your Why, Mission and Vision statements and think about these communiques as the ground work for setting your strategies and tactics, qualifying new hires and drivers for making decisions in your day to day operations as well as your planning.

However, make no mistake that even if you hire an amazing and creative crack team to come up with the most incredible brand message, it will never be enough to compensate for poor quality or lousy or mundane service. In order to grow from good to great your company and everyone in it must be delivering consistency throughout every moving part that measures up to your mission and goals. But let’s get back to your Repeatable Message – or your Tag Line.

Some universal rules regarding tag lines:

  • It should be true
  • It should be short
  • It could be the differentiator qualifier against your competitors
  • It should be outcome oriented
  • It should be your customer’s experience summed up
  • It should be easy to remember and easy to repeat

After weeks or possibly months of brainstorming about your company tag line, and believing that you’ve nailed it, you might want to test it out. A typical error in judgment is that entrepreneurs are certain, confident and often times blind with passion about their why, mission and vision and so naturally believe that they are the best judge of a good tag line for their company.

Wrong! Blind passion often creates tag lines that miss the mark.

Remember that your tag line and branding are about the customer’s experience, so you need to ask your customers! Ask your most loyal and enthusiastic customers. This is where surveying comes in real handy. First, explain what you are doing. Let them know that you are in the process of rebranding and their experience and perspective will be greatly appreciated. The following are some suggested questions:

  1. Why did you choose our product/service – what mattered most to you?
  2. What are some of the benefits of our product/service for you?
  3. How does our product/service make you feel?
  4. What would you say is your favorite thing about our product/service?
  5. If you were to recommend us – what would you tell the other person?
  6. Help us with our tag line – please review the following 4 statements and rank them in order, and feel free to suggest one of your own.

Listen carefully to the responses and you will discover or uncover the motivation and beliefs of your customers about your brand. You will experience your brand from their point of view, and it is their point of view and experience that is the essence of your brand, and the elements of your tag line.

Check Your Website’s Citations: SEO Best Practices

May 28th, 2014 by Mardy Sitzer

imagesConsistency Reigns Supreme in SEO: So check your citations.

SEO experts and gurus throw around the term “Structured Citations” and offer, for a fee of course, to get your website structured citations. They will tell you that they are important for SEO results and I agree – they are important. The caveat here is not volume but quality – meaning a few high value, respected listing sites are worth more – and safer – than dozens of low quality, spammy listing sites.

Equally as important, you might already be listed in places and you’ll want to make certain that the listings have your current information and those they are consistent. What you might not realize is that some listing sites scrape data from other sources to bulk up their listings. They could well have gathered old information about your company or something that kind of looks similar but isn’t yours and associated that data to your listing. Yeah, this can get messy without you even having done anything, and so it is important to check regularly.

You might be wondering what the heck a structured citation is and that’s okay. You’ve probably heard it enough to where you might either be numb to it or kind of figured it out, but for those of you still wondering, here is a definition I found on the Internet that explains what it is. Read more…

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