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I am managing social media for a growing list of clients, which means that I’ve also got a growing list of separate logins and passwords for Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter for each client–rarely does a client synch login information. I log in, upload a post, an image and often link to an article that positions the client as a brilliant industry thought leader. It used to be that I looked at this as a leisurely morning activity and a great way to kick off my day. Lately, it has become extremely time consuming, and I knew that I needed to find a better way to do this.

A bit of a purist, I held off on using dashboard tools because I did not like the way that a post showed that it had been published by whatever tool was being used. I have totally gotten over this because I am loving the way automation has simplified my life. I tried out a few applications, including SplashCube, which does a great job with lead generation with Twitter, but it’s $200/month, and it doesn’t support images, which makes it unrealistic for me. This is a visual medium, for crying out loud, and images are critical to attracting readers to posts.

I settled on HootSuite, and once I figured out how to make each client a team in my HootSuite fiefdom, I am thrilled with the way it has created efficiencies for me. I now have one login rather than 15. I open it in the morning, upload my posts and leave it open all day to stay on top of the activity on my clients’ sites. I like the spontaneity that HootSuite provides, allowing me to maintain a dialog, asking question and making comments throughout the day, which is critical to creating an online community.

Just one question remains: What took me so long?

Ask me about using HootSuite for your digital media program, Top of Mind Marketing

I met with a new client yesterday and I asked her what they’re doing to market themselves. They’re two women attorneys who’ve been in business for ten years, and they’ve successfully weathered several economies. They belong to several legal organizations and sit on a few BODs. They’d do more networking, but frankly, both have two small children under 4, and they’re stretched pretty thin. Also, let’s not forget (ladies) that women are always the primary caregivers.

They have an intake form on their website, which generates a fair number of inquiries, but only a few of these turn out to be valid clients.

This brings me to my own realization. I have a fair number of 5-star ratings on Yelp, and over the last few months I have received quite a few calls from potential clients. I call these people back, discuss their requirements, prepare a proposal and schedule follow-up call to discuss their projects.

All of these efforts have been a waste of time because none of these people has been ready to spend any money on marketing. They all have unrealistic expectations about the time it takes to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, create a newsletter, a blog or website. One person wanted me to develop and execute a very labor-intensive social media campaign, assuming that he could pay me once his business got off the ground. Is he crazy?

Another thing these people have in common–none of them understands that networking and word of mouth are the most important ways to build a business. Every single one of these people expected a website, blog, newsletter or social media to bring clients storming through his/her doors.

Get a grip. Successful business owners know that networking and word of mouth are essential to business growth. Most of all, it takes considerable time and effort to develop and nurture the relationships that generate new business. Savvy business owners know that we don’t have choices about how we market ourselves–we have to be doing it all.

Ask me about how to make the most of your marketing dollars–it’s what we do at Top of Mind Marketing!

I’m now managing social media accounts for a growing number of clients. That means logging in to each client’s accounts and coming up with something clever to say.

I also research what’s going on in their industries and link to articles to show how brilliant they are. I identify and upload images because people have short attention spans and this is a visual medium.

Even more important, there’s the herculean task of growing their online communities so everyone will understand just how brilliant my clients are and seek them out to do business with them.

This is what I do for my social media clients, and it’s taking an increasingly bigger chunk of my time; and I’m trying to find an application to automate this effort.

The problem? There are lots of apps out there, and each has strengths, limitations and a range of price points.

I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure these out. Some have serious deficiencies–Splashcube, an app that does a great job with Twitter lead generation, doesn’t support images–this won’t work for me. I’m also spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to set up accounts for all of my clients within these apps. Endless trouble tickets and emails with little resolution are making me want to go back to doing it the old-fashioned way, but I know that I’ve got to find a way to work smarter.

My beef? Why can’t those brilliant minds down in Silicon Valley figure out what we need and just make it happen? How hard can this be?

I was recently invited to the annual awards luncheon for a wonderful organization, the Women’s Initiative. It provides high-potential, low-income women with the training, funding and support to start their own businesses and become financially self sufficient.

The stats are impressive–just one year after graduation, graduates of the program average household income increases 60%. Five years after training, 70% of graduates are still in business. It goes on.

During the luncheon, we listened to the three award winners tell their stories, and everyone at my table was wiping away tears. One woman’s story was particularly moving. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a single mother and the first person in her family to graduate from not just college, but law school.

She did this while her epileptic daughter was facing brain surgery. Most women in the program face language barriers and god only knows what other heinous obstacles. The program is supportive but rigorous. They learn to write a business plan, manage money, hire employees and create a customer service ethic.

Like many people in the room of more than 200 people, I was inspired to volunteer. I figure that all of these inspiring women could probably use some help with their marketing, and there are few things I love more than brainstorming about marketing ideas and implementing them on a miniscule budget.

But more than that, think about what would happen if everyone did just one thing to help somebody else. This is something I have always believed in. Be generous with your time.

Ask me about making the most of your marketing dollars–which is really all about your time. It’s what we do at Top of Mind Marketing!

I was at a networking event the other day and someone handed me a business card that was approximately the size of a postage stamp. I just looked at her–you’ve got to be kidding. The lettering was in some tiny little stylized font that I couldn’t read. Her name was missing, though her website appeared to be on it, though I couldn’t make it out, even with my super old-person pair of reading glasses.

Your business card is so totally not the time to be cute. It’s about communication. You have one chance to hand it to a person, make eye contact and shake someone’s hand. Your card needs to look good, but more than winning design contests, it needs to be readable.

I see this kind of skewed thinking all the time and, frankly, it totally mystifies me. People pour their hearts, souls, life savings and maxed-out credit cards into starting their own businesses, then turn around and give their businesses foreign names that no one can pronounce or choose fonts or lettering for them that are so stylized that people can’t read them.

Why does this make a difference? If no one can read or pronounce the name of your business, you’ve just lost word of mouth advertising which is the very best way to grow your business because it’s absolutely free. Make it easy for people to find you–and just as important–tell their friends about you.  

Ask me about pragmatic marketing solutions that work. It’s what we do at Top of Mind Marketing.

I recently got an email from a colleague asking me what I thought of all of these people sending emails and facebook messages asking us to Like them on their FB pages. In her case, she doesn’t know many of these people at all, and she was too nice to say that she didn’t want to know or wished she didn’t know many others.

This falls into the same category as going to a networking event and finding yourself automatically receiving someone’s newsletter without anyone’s asking your permission to be placed on a distribution list.

So what do I think? I think it’s time to suck it up and get over it! We’re all trying to build a community. Every single one of us is networking his/her ass off, working long hours, trying to think creatively and strategically. How long does it take to delete or unsubscribe from a newsletter, after all? I may or may not want to continue to receive one, but I frequently open it because I just may learn something.

Facebook and other social media apps are a way to share your expertise and thoughts. You just never know when someone’s going to see your randomized ideas and think you’re brilliant and want to work with you. It’s time to be a little generous.

Now that I’ve become a passionate sports fan, I’m seeing something which I find appalling–every sportscast seems to think they need to have a woman–generally a very sexy woman–announcer. Generally just one token female.

I just watched the intro to Sunday night football, featuring the 49ers and the Detroit Lions. There was music, flashing graphics and a woman strutting around the stage wearing what is likely a tiny, size 0 dress and stiletto heels. Of course she had long blonde hair which she shook around as she gyrated. I absolutely hate that women are being objectified like this.

While I’m all for sexual equality, I struggle a bit with women sports announcers. It may have something to do with too much cleavage, too many short skirts and too little knowledge of the game. I think of Marty Lurie, to whose KNBR show I faithfully listen. This guy loves baseball and understands the lore, history and the extraordinary players that make this sport so compelling for the 40,000+ fans who stream into AT&T Park for every home game.

Showing too much skin and being perceived as a sex object is not what women’s liberation advocates fought for more than 40 years ago. This isn’t doing any favors for sports or for women.