I treat Facebook and Twitter pretty differently – I use Twitter (@janinepopick) for business and Facebook for both. I am somewhat selective when it comes to whom I accept as a Facebook friend. But with Twitter, I think the more followers, the better. If you follow me on Twitter, I pretty much set the scene for what I’ll be posting.
I allow my employees to friend me on Facebook if they’d like. I don’t get too crazy on Facebook, but you might find more personal posts from me from time to time. I post for business there, as well.
And I won’t say that I’m ‘Big Brother,’ but if people who friend me post, I see it in my newsfeeds and in my Twitter stream. It can be a great way to get to know your employees (to the extent they let you) and find out a bit more about their lives outside the company, which can be a positive.
Of course, you might also uncover how they are feeling about their jobs and your company; positive or negative, it’s still good for you to know. Hopefully they’re all positive, but there’s always a possibility that you’ll come across a post or tweet that may put your business in a bad light.
If you do find that you’re bothered by an employee’s negative post, and he or she is defaming your company, talk with him or her and ask how you can work together to make it better. Show that you’re open to discussion. You may have just opened up a door that the person was afraid to. Look at it in a positive light; that post may lead to changes that will make your company a better place.
Do you let your employees follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Where do you draw the line? I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!
My e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, is growing steadily. We're lucky; we've got great customers and great employees. Serving non-profits and small businesses gives us a charge, especially since we know we're helping them survive and grow.
We've been around for 10 years, seven of them in the same building (which I loved). But as a result of our growth, we ended up on two different floors. Divided. It's tough to keep a culture together when a company is split in two. We tried group lunches, but it's hard to get 90 people together at once when space is limited. We also have an offsite company-wide event every quarter and have a great time. But, it still isn't enough on a day-to-day basis.
Recently we moved to a new office so we could have the next few years all together on one floor. I'm a realist; if our company continues to thrive, we'll be there again, for great reasons, the same reasons that split us before.
Through the move, I find it amazing how much little things matter. For example:
- We always had a VerticalResponse sign on our front door in the old space, but in this new space we put up a company sign right when you get out of the elevator, and another pretty large one when you arrive in the reception area. I can't tell you the number of times my staff has told me how cool the sign was. They're proud of where they spend their days, so when they come in, it's great to see the name of the company lit up!
- We had two kitchenettes in our previous space, one on each floor. Both were pretty small. The new office has a vastly larger and improved kitchen with plenty of space for people to hang out and get their coffee. Lots of great conversations about the business take place in there that may otherwise never happen if everyone has to elbow their way to the fridge.
- We purposefully didn't "cube" the entire office so we could have some open space where people can meet, eat their lunches and chat. Remember, we had different groups of people on separate floors, some who had never met! I went to IKEA and got some great-looking tables and chairs, a few couches and some fun bean bag chairs. The bean bags get used like crazy!
You don't have to move to a new office to make it a fun place to work, but having things around the office or in your place of business that your staff can be proud of works wonders for morale!
You go into a dressing room with 10 pairs of jeans to try on, even though you just need one. You take off the ones you're wearing – your beloved pair that fits so well. You try all 10 pairs and luckily one of them fits as well, if not better, than the pair you thought you could never replace. You feel that after pulling on all those jeans, you know what works for you. You have a winner.
It's the same in business. You should be constantly trying new things in all parts of your business to get better results and, in the long run, grow. Here are a few ideas you might try to test:
- Messaging - Test messaging on your search engine marketing campaigns. "Free Trial" might work better than "Try it Free!" We've even used search engine marketing to test pricing for a new product. Another idea is to split your e-mail marketing list and test subject lines in your campaigns to see which one has the better open and click rates. Finally, include separate opt-in forms all over your website to see which page works best for getting newsletter sign-ups.
- Sales - If you have a retail store and you've got a window display, test which ones bring in more people on a week-to-week basis. If you've got a daily sandwich board, test your messaging on a day-to-day basis. If your company takes a lot of phone calls, end it with a "would you like fries with that?" type of messaging and change it up to see which ones pull the best.
- Shipping - Test new shipping companies for your products. Split shipping down the middle and see which one gets the packages to your customers in a more timely and efficient way, UPS or FedEx? You might find you have happier customers with one versus the other.
- Website - There are plenty of tools that let you test your home page to see how many more people are converting. My company, VerticalResponse, uses Visual Website Optimizer to handle this.
- Social Media - Test offers on Twitter and Facebook to see which brings more visitors to your website or traffic to your location.
- Events - Try hosting an event and see if that draws new customers or drives existing customers to talk about you.
Throwing a bunch of new ideas against the wall to see if they stick is more important than ever if you want to grow your business. And doing it often is important, so that you're not stagnant. So, what are you testing today?
My e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, recently partnered with Startup Weekend, an amazing event where entrepreneurs get a little over two days to come up with an idea, pitch it to a crowd and work on one of about 20 ideas selected by their peers. Participants choose whether or not they want to participate on any of the 20 teams and they start to solidify the idea of a product. Most of the products are technology based and many are online solutions for businesses or consumers. At the end of the weekend, the teams present their new products to three judges, who select an event winner.
I was lucky enough to be on the judging panel for the Startup Weekend here in Palo Alto, Calif., where about 150 designers, developers and marketers participated. It was an amazing experience.
I got to the event on a Sunday evening for the judging and Go Go Mongo creator Ahmed Siddiqui, who was running the event, greeted me. He wanted to know if I could meet with the women across all of the teams for a quick sit-down so they could ask me questions about being a woman in tech. I had no idea what I was in for, but about a dozen women soon gathered around me, all very sharp.
Two very pertinent questions that were asked:
How can I find a technical partner since I'm more on the product marketing side?
Good question. I had a great idea with VerticalResponse, but I don't have a technical background so I can really relate! I was lucky in that I knew two tech folks whom I trusted and that I could rely upon. So, in taking that approach, I simply said that we have to reach out to our networks. We must have conversations with people we trust, and we have to reach out on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to pose the question to your friends and followers to further the reach. Finding someone you've got a link to could be a great way to start a business relationship.
What were your biggest hurdles being a woman in tech?
My answer? Frankly, our level of confidence. Going into a VC meeting to ask for money? A guy can sound really confident about how he's going to get from zero to 60 in four seconds, more so than a woman. It's just a fact. We need to trust our gut and be confident in our decisions right from the start.
So, if you are a woman in tech, check out a Startup Weekend near you – they have events all around the world – to meet some incredibly fun, creative and likeminded people. Also, make sure to reach out to your social networks. You never know who in those networks might just be the technical ticket to your startup extravaganza!
I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve seen a crazy barrage of TV commercials for Xfinity; you know, the new name for Comcast? So instead of addressing that they have given customers a poor experience, they went ahead and changed their name, as if we’re slightly fooled. Then they've said things in their TV commercials like, “If we screw up, within 30 days we’ll give you a courtesy credit.” How about, “We’re sorry we screwed up and you get a month free?” What is "courtesy credit" anyway?
Domino's Pizza, on the other hand, seems to be doing a better job with transparency. They aired commercials with the CEO who addressed the changes they're making, everything on the “food chain” from the taste of the pizza to the ingredients they use. They even asked people to upload pictures of how their pizza arrived and if it arrives with cheese on the box top, you get a free pie. They are being more transparent about what they’re fixing.
Icing on the cake? Domino's is posting reviews of the pizza in Times Square on a billboard. Talk about interaction and transparency!
Great job, Domino's, on being more transparent. They're spending a ton of money on the following:
- They tell us what is wrong and how they're working on fixing it.
- They encourage interaction with their customers by asking for pictures as well as reviews, then they post them whether they're good or bad.
We all can learn from Domino's on how to correct an image. Can Comcast? How transparent are you in your business?
Yep, I did the unthinkable. I put my e-mail address on my company's website. Most people say I'm crazy, I know it. But I thought it was important. At first I thought I would get a flood of e-mails from vendors, customers, random people, but frankly, the e-mails that I get are pretty relevant and nine times out of 10 it's a customer commenting on something or asking a legitimate question.
So why did I put my own e-mail address on the site?
- It's transparent. I'm not "one of those" who hide behind his or her people or company. I try to answer all e-mails as quickly as possible so that people know we're a real company, not just a robotic e-mail marketing website.
- It has helped build business. I've had people e-mail me with partnership ideas as well as prospects reaching out to ask me questions.
- It has helped get new employees. Someone that our HR department might not have thought would work well with current positions might be good for a future one.
- It has helped with potential financing. I've had numerous people requesting meetings to help with financing the company.
I do put a slightly different e-mail address as a link on the website, so that I can see where people are seeing it and e-mailing me from. If you're skittish about including a link because of spiders or spam, you can use an image that links to your e-mail. Either way, it's something you can do to put a personal "face" - and an e-mail address - behind your business.
If your company is giving back in one form or another, then good for you! Our communities need our help above and beyond the fact that we're creating jobs. And one easy way to give back is through cause marketing. Cause marketing, simply put, is when you entice people to do something and when they do, you'll donate to a cause. A few things happen as a result of this; people like to patron a business if they know that it gives back to worthy causes and the community, and it could be a great generator of "buzz" for you, hopefully increasing overall sales.
Bottom line is that your customers might be looking at what your business stands for. If you offer a similar product or service as a competitor, the cause that you choose just might be the thing that pushes them to choose your business over the competition. So, it's never too late to get yourself active with a non-profit partner you believe in.
Here are four steps to kick-start a cause marketing campaign for your company.
1. Identify your cause. You might want to ask your employees what they care enough to want to get behind. Or pick something that has had an effect on you in your life.
2. Determine how much you can afford to give away. Make sure you include in your budget how much you'll be giving away to your cause. You certainly want this to benefit your business, not hurt it.
3. Market your cause. If you've got a retail store, make sure you have proper signage about your cause in your store window and around your property. Print it on all materials and display it prominently on your website. Make sure the cause you're supporting knows about it, too; they may even do some promotions around it.
Here are some ideas that are easy to implement:
- Donate dollars to a cause of your choice for each survey taken, up to a certain number of online surveys. My e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, did a product survey where we gave $10 for every survey taken (up to 300 surveys) to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We got the number of surveys we wanted in just two days.
- Donate a percentage of all revenue generated from all sales in a specific time period, like a few hours or a specific day. For example: "From noon to 2 p.m. this Saturday, all profits go to the American Cancer Society."
- Give a percentage of all revenue generated from a specific product purchased for a specific time period. For example: "All profits from our new set of widgets for the next two weeks will be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank."
- Donate dollars for each purchase made over some specific amount. An example: "For any total purchase made over $200, we will donate $20 to Parks and Recreation of the Bay Area."
Include the campaign in all of your e-mail marketing efforts along with a link to the cause. If you're on social media like Facebook, make sure you become a member of your cause, and make sure you talk about your involvement on all your social networks.
4. Talk about your success. Once you get to a place that seems significant, get loud and proud. Talk about the amount of money you raised and what it was used for. Tell stories about lives that may have been saved, or successes of the cause because of the support from businesses like yours. People love to do business with a winner, and you and your staff will feel great about the work you do. And to prove that you actually "gave back," it's a good practice to send an e-mail marketing campaign to all of those that "contributed" telling them that you just wrote the check to your cause. To top it all off, you can even show the receipt in your email. (Just make sure to block out the credit card number you used to make the donation!)
Ingrain cause marketing in your company and it could be a big boost to business, a boost for your cause and a boost for employee morale for years to come.
When you get to a certain size of company, controlling communications can be tough. Even if you’ve got 20 people, they’re probably broken up in different departments and focusing on their own job at hand. But, they probably want to know what’s going on in the company and what other departments are doing. And you shouldn’t assume that everyone talks to each other. Keeping the message of what’s going on in the company should be under your control so you know exactly how it’s translated.
At my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, we’ve gone through a growth spurt in the past few years and as a result we’ve experienced a number of communications roadblocks. Years ago, we had the issue where some managers communicated to their teams while others didn’t, so we had part of the company in the know and others who weren’t. This caused “water cooler” chat (which will happen in any case) that was, frankly, untrue.
So we started to think about all of the ways we could have a hand in what was being communicated and how often we should be doing it. It’s different for every company, but what we’ve found is that over communicating can be a good thing.
Here are some things we do:
All-hands meetings – All of the departments talk about what they’ve accomplished in the previous month/quarter and what they’re going to shoot for in the next. We shoot for all-hands meetings at least three times per year. We can’t always afford to get everyone together, so sometimes we have a webinar. What we’ve found is that people are more apt to ask questions when it’s a webinar versus an in-person discussion.
Company e-mail newsletter – Every month each department gives an update on the goals for the previous month and the accomplishments or non-accomplishments and why.
Quarterly happy hours/lunch gatherings – VerticalResponse gets together in a local restaurant and all departments get to know one another and chat, or gets together for a lunch.
Suggestion box – Our company has an online anonymous suggestion box as well as locked boxes in the common areas that foster communications from those who might be a bit shy to otherwise offer.
- Do Your Employees Follow You on Social Media?
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- Areas of Your Business You Should Be Testing
- Two Tough Questions From Women in Technology
- Thanks for Coming Clean Domino's; Comcast Should Take Notes!
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