Deleting Negative Reviews – Drive-By Marketing

In this podcast I address deleting negative reviews and comments about your company / product / service from review sites, Facebook pages and other locations.

I mention the reasons why you shouldn’t delete negative reviews, which include:

  • How it makes your profile looks fake or fixed, as if you were trying to game the system.
  • The missed opportunity to build dialogue and trust with your customers or community
  • The missed opportunity to learn from these reviews and improve your product or service.

If you have questions, comments or things that you’d like me to discuss of future episodes please leave me a message in the comments below.

Podcasting and Social Proof – A Missed Opportunity

Podcasting and Soaccial Proof - Paul OFlaherty

There’s a missed opportunity for podcast hosting companies such as Libsyn, Blubrry and now SoundCloud, to bring social proof to podcasting simply by opening up an API that allows plugins to poll download numbers and display them next to podcast players.

Blubrry already has the excellent PowerPress plugin, which I am sure the vast majority of WordPress based podcasters use regardless of where they host their media, so it should be really easy for them to add it. Libsyn and other providers could get involved simply by releasing a plugin that checks the filename in the enclosure custom field, polls an API every few hours (or once a day even) and allows podcasters to display a chiclet or some text- just like folks do for newsletter subscriber numbers, Facebook subscribers, Twitter followers and YouTube views. SoundCloud could start by making RSS downloads (a podcasters lifeblood) part of the reported public stats instead of hiding the numbers away privately and only showing the “on SoundCloud” plays.

Why would we want this? Because social proof works when building an audience. It’s easier to pick up more followers or downloads the more you already have – then it’s up to you to keep them.

iTunes and it’s frankly poor podcast search, should not be the only social proof that podcasters have.

Why Social Media Marketing? – Drive-By Marketing Podcast

“Why should we bother with social media marketing? We have a website and most of our business comes from Word of Mouth. We’re actually a profitable and very successful local company. Isn’t this just another expense?”

I hear questions like that a lot, and it’s easy to empathize with small business owners who can see social media as just another drain on their already tight time and financial resources.

In the video and audio below I cover 5 reasons why you’re small business needs to be engaged on social media.

Here’s the TL;DR (Too Long Didn’t Read) version for those of you can’t watch or listen right now:

Honestly, it’s not a matter if you should be engaged in social media marketing, it’s only about how  well you commit to doing it.

Blind Reposting – Drive-By Marketing Rant

Reposting content online, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or any other social network, can be an awesome way to keep your followers engaged. It can bring attention to your brand from those whose content you’re reposting, and it can provide your audience with new content while you get your own content ready for sharing. Best of all it helps break the cycle of “me, me, me, product, product, product… sell, sell, sell…”, a cycle which is unfortunately all too common.

Reposting, sharing, retweeting can all be seen by your audience as an endorsement, so be careful what you repost. Don’t automate the process, and definitely read / watch / listen to everything you share or you could end up embarrassing yourself or your brand.

In the video / audio below I give an example of how I encountered this over the past week.

It Is A Very Silly Email Address…

Monty Python - Very Silly Email Address - Paul O'Flaherty

What’s your name? What’s your company name? What’s your email address? Ask those 3 questions fast enough and it almost sounds like a Monty Python sketch.

Just like the “Bridge of Death” scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” if you answer incorrectly then cast into the chasm you shall be.

If your email address ends is @yahoo, @gmail, @comcast, @aol or any other service other than @yourcompany then you’re inflicting a serious flesh wound to your reputation and deserve to be mauled by the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Reputable companies do not use disposable, throwaway email accounts.

Image: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Empower Your Community To Spread Your Word

Evangelism Marketing - Paul O'Flaherty

I was contacted by a fledgling religious oriented startup that wanted to get various celebrity ministers and church leaders to make a specific declaration during one of their sermons.

Their goal could not have been achieved given their budget and timeframe so I offered some free advice which also happens to apply to almost every business no matter it’s size:

Send forth your evangelists.

Every business, no matter what type, has its fans and believers – people who actually care about the business, its products or goals. These people, whether acolytes within or believers on the outside, are your best marketing tool.

Evangelism marketing is the next step up from Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), but the goal is the same – to have passionate people talking about your product!

Evangelism marketing is … in which companies develop customers who believe so strongly in a particular product or service that they freely try to convince others to buy and use it. The customers become voluntary advocates, actively spreading the word on behalf of the company.

As they act independently, evangelist customers often become key influencers. The fact that evangelists are not paid or associated with any company make their beliefs perceived by others as credible and trustworthy.

It costs very little to enable customers to spread your message, but it will take time and effort to promote them from simple customers to passionate advocates for your business.

Listen to them. Share their stories and incentivize them to spread the word as your advocates. Enable them to share their experiences on social media and in real life.

Organize them into a community, and show them that you care about their opinion. Interact with them and let that interaction be part of a larger conversation.

In the case of the startup mentioned above, I recommended that they organize their friends and followers as volunteers. Explain their mission and what they want to achieve to their volunteers, and create fun community events around achieving that goal.

Have group events to make calls, tweet, share and send emails, while you provide food, snacks, fun distractions and the thrill of achieving a common goal. Get everyone t-shirts and share pictures and updates from these events on social media. Spread the word about what they are doing and not only give them something to talk about online, but give them the means to do it too.

Taking this approach the startup would get a lot more “bang for the buck” and a longer sustained campaign, while also building a community around their message.

How you empower your evangelists is up to you, but must do it and you must make them part of your community.

There are very few things that a passionate community cannot achieve.

You’re Not Ready For Me

The Path To Success?

“You’re not ready”. It can single most difficult and hardest thing to say to someone who pitches me about marketing their product or idea, but sometimes it can also be the easiest.

Some of the pitches I receive are for products which have already been developed, others are for vague notions with no clear concept or even a value proposition, but everyone is sure that theirs is the next million dollar idea.

I’ve turned away potential clients for myriad reasons – your idea is crap (sorry, but it’s true), to people thinking that I’m going to drop everything and devote one hundred percent of my time to an idea which they haven’t even begun conceptualizing. Oh, and I’m going to do it for free.. but hey it’s going to make a million dollars, who cares if I can’t feed my family for the next 18 months while you “explore the concept”?

When I tell you that “you’re not ready” it’s because you’re really not – I’m not just some crazy masochist that likes to turn down money – I have kids to feed (which may mean that I am a masochist, just not a crazy one).

Sure you’ve reached out to me (and no-doubt a bunch of other marketers) but the chances are that you have not taken basic steps that show that you are committed to your idea:

  • Basic product / idea validation
  • Start a blog or website
  • Have a twitter account and Facebook page for your product or idea which you are actively growing
  • Start a newsletter
  • Make some YouTube videos (if the product can be demonstrated)
  • Put together a basic press kit.

The vast majority of this can be done for little more than elbow grease and a time commitment, with the only real financial investment being $14 for a domain if you use a free service to host your blog (tumblr, blogger or WordPress.com).

Not having these things in place raises serious red flags leading me to think that:

  • Your idea or product hasn’t been well thought through
  • You haven’t done your research before reaching out to marketers
  • You are too lazy to market your own product
  • You’re not really committed and won’t stick with it
  • You are flat ass broke and can’t afford me (c’mon – fourteen bucks for a domain?)

Nobody is going to talk about your product unless you start the conversation, and coming hat in hand, asking for other people to do the work that you could have already started is the quickest way to get turned away and discouraged.

Show that you believe in your concept or project. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but putting in the effort will show that you are willing to put your best foot forward and make a positive impression.

Podcast Interview – Biology Of the Blog

Biology Of The BlogLast week I had the pleasure of being interview by Jess Goulart for the Biology of the Blog podcast on BreakThru Radio.

On the podcast we talk about a number of topics including how to improve computer science curricula at Universities so that we can turn out developers with real-world skills and ensure that people are studying the skills that they are most suited for.

We also talk about the differences and similarities between online and offline marketing, finding your marketing voice, being authentic, engaging your audience and building your network.

The podcast features musical tracks as well as the interview with yours truly. I’ve highlighted the sections where I appear on the playlist below if you want to skip straight to the interview.

Unfortunately the interview was cut short because I had to leave to deal with a client emergency and we weren’t able to take up the interview again, but Jess edited things so that the ending isn’t too abrupt.

00:00 Mic Break
00:21 Like a Lie – Copeland
04:42 A Real Hero – Electric Youth
09:03 Mic Break
09:47 Lay Your Wet Head Down – Emby Alexander
13:26 Interview w/ Paul pt. 1
25:40 POC – Filmstrip
28:29 MMS 1970s – Filmstrip
30:54 Interview w/ Paul pt. 2
41:21 Sun/Shadow – Holy Ghost Tent Revival
45:37 Mic Break
46:05 Windows Painted Shut – Jam Jars
50:16 Saplings – Jam Jars
54:24 Finish

Download “Biology of the Blog” mp3. 64.4 MB 54:24

Stop Over-Analyzing and Build Your Referral Network

Build Your Referral Network

Note: The alternative title for this post was “Getting Bogged Down In Data”.

If there’s one trap that everyone falls into at some point in their marketing career, it’s over-analyzing. We all know how important it is to track the right data when you’re launching a new campaign, or building out a referral network for your medical practice or small business – but over-thinking which data-points you need can actually lead to precrastination and a lot of wasted opportunities and delays.

To be fair these issues tend to be befall those relatively new to marketing more than anyone else, but even experienced marketers can fall into the same trap when faced with something they’ve never had to work with before.

These delays and wasted opportunities are not what our clients are paying us for. Our clients expect us to hit the ground running and create actual results, but how do we do it?

Let’s assume you’ve never built a referral network for a medical practice or small business before and you’re suddenly thrown in a the deep end and have to start building one at an established practice that previously handled all their own stuff. You’ve been handed a couple of spreadsheets that they’ve been using to track referrals, but they appear to have somewhat contradictory data. Where do you begin?

Talk to the client and set your goals:

Confer with your client and find out what is they wish to achieve. Obviously they all want to add to the bottom line, but for most medical practices it will be something like: “Renew relationships with past referrers who aren’t sending as much work, strengthen relations with existing referrals, and bring in new referral sources”.

Examine the existing data:

Use past data to figure out who you need to be courting to bring them back into the fold. Most practices and small businesses will have some form of referral tracking in place, and the very least they should be able to pull data from their CRM or practice management solution. If the don’t then you’ll have to do some extra leg-work with the client.

Discuss your observations with your client as some declines in referral sources may have “political” reasons and may be a waste of your energy. Very often your client will have a fairly good idea as to why someone stopped referring to them and this can give you very valuable insight into how to approach them.

Do your research and identify new referral sources:

Chances are that the sources referring to your client are not the only fish in the pond. Get online, hit up directories and find out what other potential referral sources are within your client’s catchment area.

Decide What Information You Need To Track to be effective:

The previous three steps were easy, now comes the part the holds most people up – deciding what information to track and how to track it. The more information you track the harder it can be to find a tool that will allow you easily manage the data, and frankly, the more work there is for you. After a certain point the tracking of unnecessary information becomes a burden and a time drain. Too much data can cloud your view. Lets keep it simple.

Get yourself a whiteboard.

Write down all of the data points you would like to be able to track (Name, contact info, NPI number, past referral numbers etc..)

Go have a cup of coffee and talk to someone about something completely different.

Come back to your whiteboard and start erasing all the data points that you don’t ACTUALLY need! Be aggressive. If it’s just a “that would be nice to track” but doesn’t actually help you beyond looking pretty on a spreadsheet, then kick it to the curb.

If at the end of your murderous erasing spree you’re tracking more than 6-8 data points you’re doing it wrong.

Track Your Information And Visits – Get A CRM

Finding a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution that fits your needs is considerably easier now they you’re only tracking a handful of data points, but there are somethings that you will want to consider.

  • It should allow you to easily import contacts from your email platform
  • It should integrate with your email platform so that you can tag emails and assign them to relationships and organizations
  • It needs to have strong note taking abilities
  • It should have a strong mobile app. You don’t want to be carrying a laptop around all day or filling in your notes when you get back to the office. If you can do it all on your phone, then YAY!
  • It should be scalable – someday you may grow your consulting activities beyond yourself

Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to enter all of your potential referrers information in straight away. Add them as you intend to visit them, and any competent CRM will start building relationships and tracking organizations as you tag emails and correspondence leading to organic population.

As an added bonus, a CRM will help you track your progress, projects and tasks, making reporting to your client considerably easier.

Prioritize your list

Based on your research and existing referral data you should now be able to easily prioritize the practices that you need to reach out to first. Talk to your client once your list is complete – explain your reasoning as they may have some insights into the meetings you’re about to setup.

Start making phone calls, sending emails and hit the streets.

Get out there. There’s nothing holding you back now except you and your willingness to make contacts. Send your emails, make your calls, visit offices, attend conferences and events, shake some hands! Track and analyze your results, rinse and repeat accordingly.