I’ve always loved holidays. Growing up, many were a big deal for my family with something to look forward to from each. Thanksgiving had its food and parade, Christmas had its gift-giving and decorating, and the 4th of July had its fireworks and town celebrations. Anymore, there seems to be some reason to celebrate every day. Take for instance holidays like Doughnut Day (first Friday in June) or Singles Awareness Day (February 15).
Having something to celebrate every day can be fun, but it can easily become annoying. That’s why it’s important to practice celebrating in moderation, especially as a business or organization. National holidays can create some great content, but you don’t want it to become too much of a good thing. Here are my 3 tips when it comes to celebrating and using all the national holidays in your marketing.
Keep It Relevant
Just because you see a lot of posts about National Bomb Pop Day (the last Thursday in June) doesn’t mean your auto body shop NEEDS to create a post. National holidays can help break up your content, whether as a fun, interactive post or helping to promote something about your business. It’s when you try to celebrate as many national holidays as possible that your customers will lose interest quickly, possibly causing them to unfollow or unsubscribe from you. National holidays are seen as something fun to do not something that should be exploited or worn out. Make sure whatever holidays you choose to have your business celebrate, they don’t seem forced or completely unrelated.
Keep It Real
Although you could celebrate something every day, not all “national holidays” should be celebrated. One big component I pay attention to is looking to see how accurate it is. When you use the National Day Calendar, each holiday will give an explanation of how to celebrate as well as the history behind it. If it says it’s “researching the origins” of that holiday, many times I won’t use it. Another great way to see if it’s something worth celebrating is to research hashtags. You can search specific hashtags with the search bar on Instagram and Twitter. This way you’ll know how popular it really is, if it’s worth adding to your calendar, and if it’s seen as a real holiday.
Keep it Fun
Probably one of the most important aspects of celebrating national holidays is having a fun way to interact with your customers and followers. Although these can give you a great reason to have a sale or promote your business, sometimes it’s just a simple way to start a fun conversation. One of my favorite holidays to use for my clients is National Get To Know Your Customers Day (the third Thursday of the last month of each quarter). I take the opportunity to ask a question, sometimes not even related to the business, to get a conversation going. The less serious, the better - you don’t want people starting an argument in your comment section because you decided to ask who do you hope wins the election.
Whether you decided to stick to the traditional 7 holidays or branch out every now and again, just remember to keep it all in moderation. We can always use a good reason to celebrate and have a little more fun, just not necessarily every day. It can take a little work and planning to incorporate holidays into your marketing, but it can also pay off in the end. If you’d like a little help, here’s my gift to you to celebrate whatever today may be - download this calendar filled with some of my favorite national holidays!
In the earlier stages of building a business or organization, meetings and networking become a big part of your day. You’re looking to spread the message of what you do and find people to help through services or volunteering. It’s been no different in my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve enjoyed many cups of coffee learning about other businesses in the Des Moines metro and sharing my passion for what I do. Although meetings usually go well when they are specifically interested in my marketing or other services, there are times where I start to see 1 of 3 reasons they probably won’t hire me anytime soon. And honestly, I’m usually glad they don’t because I wouldn’t want either of us to feel as though we made a bad business decision. Whether you are thinking of sitting down with myself or another marketer, make sure you have these reasons aren’t holding you back from moving forward.
In a previous blog, I talked about the importance of having marketing in your business’s budget. Before you consider sitting down with myself or any other marketer, make sure you have a monthly amount you’re ready to invest (and yes, you definitely want to see it as an investment, more on that below). More times than not, I’ll get the question “what do you charge?” Although I have a lovely price sheet I’m happy to share, I usually reply with another question, “What is your budget?” If you don’t have that answer, any of my prices will give you sticker shock. I’m always willing to talk through any size budget and see if we can’t find the best bang for your business buck, but it’s better to have a budget set first.
Time is a precious commodity. It’s why many of us choose to start our own businesses - so we can spend more time doing what we love or with those we love. When you start an organization, you spend most of your time helping it grow, including all the marketing and communication. If you’re still in the early stages where you have the time to post on social media, send out emails, or create flyers, then you may not be ready to hire it out, and that’s ok. When those tasks start to go into the late hours of the night or the weekend, that’s when it’s time to find someone like myself. My job is to help you grow while making sure you have time to focus on other parts of your business or more personal time.
Maybe you’ve heard how important it is to be marketing your business. Maybe people have asked why don’t you have any marketing materials. Maybe you’ve never really seen the importance of marketing but feel like it’s something you’re “supposed to do” as a business owner. If that’s your reasoning for sitting down with a marketer, I can tell you now the conversation probably won’t go well. Just like you know the importance of your products or service offerings, marketers feel the same about what they are offering you. My goal has always been to provide small businesses and non-profits with budget-friendly and high-quality marketing that helps them achieve their goals. If I’m being honest, not fully understanding the importance of marketing is the biggest reason I don’t want someone to hire me. I want them to trust me and value what I bring to the table. I truly want to provide the best service I can and want to create a working relationship, not just a contract. When starting with a new client, I become one of their biggest cheerleaders because if I can’t get behind what they are about, then the marketing won’t be effective.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good conversation over coffee or lunch especially since Des Moines has so many great local spots. I also know that making the most of the other person’s time is also important. If you’d like to get together over coffee and get to know more about my business while I do the same for yours, great! I’m always looking to expand my network and have great people to refer to. If you truly think you’re ready to take the steps towards hiring out your marketing (or daily tasks - see my Virtual Assistant page), then let’s get a meeting on the calendar.
I’m not going to sugar coat it - my blogging isn’t as consistent as I’d like it to be on my own site.
Honestly, it’s a good thing because it means that I’m busy doing work for my clients with their blogs, social media, and the like. I once had another freelance marketing colleague say if your own website and blog are up to date, you don’t have enough work. I completely agree with that statement.
Although I’m not sweating the frequency of my blog or social media posts, as a business owner looking to stay in touch with both current and new customers, it is something you need to be aware of because your current and potential customers really do notice.
Falling Through the Cracks
If I asked you to name a business or brand, besides yours of course, what comes to mind first? Whether you’ve realized it or not, the reason their first is because they make sure to stay top of mind. When you have big gaps in your promotions and marketing, people tend to forget about you. No matter how good that one blog post was or how many likes you got on that social media post, it’s gone and forgotten if you don’t continue to communicate and promote. If you aren’t putting yourself in front of the public in some form at least 12 times, you won’t make an impression. If you were to ask your customers how they heard about you, they’re only going to remember the most recent, and the reason they are inquiring or visiting is usually that they’ve seen your business name enough times that it finally stuck. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Think of consumers like an old dot matrix printer - your logo and business name only prints one line of ink at a time. Some people just print faster than others.
Just Say No to Spam
There is a big difference from working to stay top of mind and being spammy. You want to make sure that the frequency not only makes sense for your product or service but that you’re giving relevant information and not just sending that email to send an email. And if all you post is “buy my product!” or “use my service!” people will not only tune you out but eventually tell the platform they don’t even want to follow you. No one wants to be hidden for 30 days or worse Unliked. Social media is about communication; don’t make it advertising, give your customers something to interact with every now and again. DID YOU KNOW: Every quarter there’s a #GetToKnowYourCustomersDay? It falls on the third Thursday of every quarter month (January, April, July, and October).
Don’t be a Robot
I’m not going to lie - being able to schedule posts is a GREAT time saver. The only problem is then it’s like those infomercials where you set it and forget it. What if someone comments? What if something changes or a last-minute exciting idea comes along? Scheduling posts is great for holidays or even community events, but it’s important to not only make sure your content is up-to-date but that you’re interacting with the people who are interacting with you! The same goes especially for those who tag you in a post or simply mention, negatively or positively. Unfortunately, many people tend to air their grievances on social media and company’s don’t have a chance to help with a resolution. Now, you could be like the venue my friend booked for her wedding and have a line in the contract stating that you can’t post anything on social media without first speaking to management to try to resolve the issue. You’ll still have random people in the public who’ve never signed your contract or may have felt their post was harmless. Social media is all about interactions and conversations. Don’t treat it as a billboard or print ad. MY TWO CENTS: Always stay to the lighter, respectful side no matter how negative.
Should I wait months before I write another blog post? Probably not. Will it happen? As long as I’m helping my awesome clients (like you, hopefully!) keep their social media and other marketing flowing, most likely. If you’re feeling inconsistent as I do about my blogging and posting, it might be time to rethink your marketing strategy. Whether it’s scheduling out time every week or finding space in the budget to hire help, don’t let your marketing have big gaps or worse, go stagnant. I'd be happy to see how I can help!
As much as I’d like to promise a blog soon, my schedule says otherwise and my clients (and bank account) are glad.
Back in the spring of 2018, had a trip to San Antonio solo, my first time traveling on my own. It was a business trip, but I tried to add some personal touches as well with some sightseeing and places to eat. When I arrived at my hotel, I was pretty exhausted; my last flight had been a little bumpy, but luckily my check-in service experience was friendly and quick. I was ready to relax in my room with some takeout. Little did I know I was in for a long night.
I attempted to order in but ended up in a 2-hour run-around. Luckily, the front desk person who had checked me in had my back. After I had already canceled my order with the first restaurant, the delivery driver shows up an hour late and thinks I'm going to still take my food. When I didn't answer my door, he walks down to the front desk and has them call my room. Since I'd called the front desk earlier to ask about a delivery person, he knew I was pretty upset already and warned the guy. After I said I canceled my order, he told the guy sorry but no go.
The next day, that same front desk person happened to be working the night shift again and told me how he'd told that delivery person that he might pull the menus of their restaurant if the service didn't shape up. When the delivery person pleaded with him, he told him that they'd better let their management know that they need better service or they won't be promoted in that hotel any longer. I thanked him for his help and asked his advice for dinner that night. He gave me the "tourist" recommendation then the local favorite to try. I ended up trying both during my trip and they were great recommendations! Except for my snafu with the first night, my stay ended up being very pleasant. I made sure to leave a very nice review and specifically mentioned the front desk person who was so helpful to me. To my pleasant surprise, I received an email from the manager about a week after my stay thanking me for my feedback.
Jump back to September of 2017, I had a trip experience that was horrid, especially in comparison. We had multiple issues with the room and never heard from the management even after waiting in our room then leaving our cell phone number so we could go sightseeing. Unfortunately, it was more work to switch hotels then stick it out the few days we were there. It wasn't until the day after we'd arrived home that I received a short email from the management with an apology, but at that point, it fell on deaf ears.
Although both managers made an effort to communicate with their customer, can you guess which handled the situation better?
Two big takeaways I have for business owners and managers to make their customer service experiences better from my experiences:
Don't wait until it's too late to respond.
Even if the situation has already happened, address it as soon as possible somehow. Letting the customer know that you're aware of it as soon as you can lets them know that the person who said they would report it actually did, giving the customer a sense of trust and priority. Had the manager during our 2017 trip even left a handwritten note for us on our door, I feel like my feelings toward the whole situation would have been different. You don't have to have all the answers or complete resolution to give a response, just keep the lines of communication open.
Be thankful for feedback.
The only good thing about my negative experience was the manager said:
The best part about my positive experience was the manager said:
Think about it this way: why guess what you're doing right or wrong when you can have your customers tell you? You won't know the right answer until you ask and get a response. Negative Reviews don't have to be something you dread but use as a tool to make your business better. If someone took the time to give you feedback, the least you can do is say "thank you".
You can't make every customer happy, but you can glean a little from each experience to continue to grow a good reputation for your business. Just like I shared my customer service experiences with you, put yourself in your customers' shoes and you'll be a better business owner for it! Although this can be a time consuming task, it's always worth it in the end, and I'd be happy to help keep a positive light on your business!
Many may not be aware, but it’s said that the 2nd week of February is considered Freelance Writer Appreciation Week. As a freelance writer myself, I consider this week as big a deal as my birthday (which if you know me personally is not a small thing). Many people don’t know or truly understand what it is I do so to think there’s an entire week dedicated to appreciating my craft rejuvenates my excitement for the type of work I’ve chosen to do.
If you’re someone who’s hired a freelance writer before or currently (or even one of my clients!) and you’ve appreciated all that they’ve done for your business, why not take a moment this week to say thank you? If you’re not sure how to start, here are a few ideas:
OK so the last “S” is a little harsh, but let’s focus on the first 3 letters: Keep It Simple. Shoot them an email that says how much you’ve appreciated what they’ve brought to your business. Maybe highlight something positive that happened as a result of their work. You could even go old school and actually mail a thank you card because who doesn’t love getting something other than bills or junk mail?
Tell the World
The biggest compliment I would ever receive as a writer is a great recommendation. If you want to really help your freelance writer without any monetary need, celebrate them publicly. This can be done through a review on sites like the Better Business Bureau or a quick “thank you” on your social media channel that tags them or their business page. (don't forget the hashtag "#FreelanceWritersAppreciationWeek")
Go All Out
If there are not enough words to express how grateful you are for your freelance writer, I’ll be the first to say honestly gifts are wonderful, too. If you’re like me and love to give gifts of great meaning, try something like Aqua Notes (because we all know inspiration comes in the shower!).
No matter how you choose to give accolades to your favorite freelance writer, they will truly appreciate it. I can’t speak for all of us, but I can bet that a great majority of us truly love what we do and love the clients we work for!
To all my fellow freelance writers, I hope you truly know how appreciated you are this week and every week! #FreelanceWritersAppreciationWeek
It happened - a customer ranted on a review website about your company and gave you the lowest rating possible. Maybe they started by saying "Don't waste your money" or "Worst company ever!!!!" even with the multiple exclamation points to really get the message across. You might think this is the beginning of the end - but I promise it's not IF it's handled properly.
In one of my past positions, it was one of my responsibilities to monitor their reviews on various platforms. What I found is most of the time, people jump the gun with their complaints because it's in the heat of the moment and it's part of a domino effect going on in their life that you get the brunt of it. But first, let me take a step back.
I know as a consumer, if I'm not sure of a service or product, I check the reviews and go straight to the bad ones. I want to see what their complaint was but furthermore, what the company did to answer and resolve it. Don't think reviews will be swept under the rug because they can come back to haunt you.
If you're not already looking at reviews of your company, it's time to start. Consumers' trust in brands and celebrities is very low and nowadays they depend on the opinions of their peers. Even if you've never created an account, certain websites like Yelp, BBB, Google+, and even Facebook might already have something in place for your business because a customer decided to leave a review. Your top priority is to go in and claim these listings so you can start to gain some control over what's being portrayed about your company.
Once you'd done this or if you've already created these accounts, you need to monitor them, at least once a week. When this was part of my job description, I tried to set aside about an hour or two a week to go through all our accounts. Even if it's all good reviews, it's important to be proactive. A simple "Thanks for choosing us!" or "We're glad we could help with ___" goes a long way.
Now for the bad reviews. No matter how infuriating they may seem, how much you want to retaliate, stop and take a breath. First, you may not have been the actual source of their rage, but you are the endpoint that gets dumped on. It's important to do a little research about the customer and what really happened. Did you do everything possible to help the customer? Was this written before a resolution was found? Are you ACTUALLY at fault? Here's how I handled negative reviews:
The best message to get across is that you did everything you could, you're continuing to work on the issue to find a proper resolution, apologize for dropping the ball if needed, and let them know how you're fixing it.
This might seem like a lot of work for one customer, but it's always worth it. Other customers will see that you are aware of what's going on in your company and want to make it right. No matter how bad the review, a great response can take that negative into a positive - and I've seen customers gained BECAUSE of a well-written response to a bad review!
A great resource for how to handle complaints is a book by Jay Baer called "Hug Your Haters." I highly recommend giving it a read.
If you read this and feel overwhelmed at the idea of adding another thing to do to your list, get in touch with me. I'd be happy to offer my services and experience!
One of the first things I ask a potential client is “what’s your marketing budget?” Many times over I hear “I/We don’t have one.”
Not gonna lie, this makes me cringe a little. It’s not that I’m not willing to work with them but it makes me nervous when it comes time to invoice each month. In the seven months that I’ve moved from a part-time to full-time freelancer, I’ve run into some issues with clients when it comes time to settle on a contract or pay their invoice. I decided that too many startups, small businesses, and new non-profits aren’t aware of how important marketing is for their organization at any stage. With the fiscal year looming its ugly head, I wanted to share some insights I’ve gained from experiences with my clients and my own budget.
Even if you decide to do the marketing on your own, you still need to plan for it. This can be as simple as business cards and a website, but you need to make sure you’ve got the funds you need. But what could be considered marketing? In short, anything you use to promote your business. Flyers inside a bag, sponsoring an event, shirts for staff, all of it. If it’s got your logo and a way to contact you, you can consider it marketing. Another aspect to consider in your budget is your time. As small business owners and non-profit directors, we just lump all our projects together, but your time is valuable. Consider setting aside a certain amount of time each week to work on your marketing: scheduling social media posts, writing a blog, or attending a networking event. Knowing roughly how much time you’re spending doing your marketing will help you know how much to budget when you need to hire someone to take over, whether internally or externally. This will also be good if you need to trim your budget. Most people cut out marketing completely, but it can hurt your business more than you realize. If you have to do the marketing yourself again, you’ll have a reference to look back on so you can budget your time and money wisely.
If you’ve decided that you’re better off hiring someone to help with marketing, there’s still some consideration. First off, do you hire someone to work directly for your business (W9 employee) or hire the work out to a freelancer (1099 employee)? There are pros and cons to both, such as providing benefits, availability, etc so make sure to weigh them carefully before deciding. One suggestion I do make if you hire directly, make sure you feel comfortable enough after about 90 days to trust their knowledge, expertise, and judgment. Not to say you shouldn’t have final say or review, but if you can’t rely on them to eventually work on their own, you’ll only add stress and more to your own plate, removing the reason for hiring someone.
If you’ve decided to hire outside the business, here are a few tips. First, treat their invoices just like you would any other bill, especially if you know in advance what the amount will be. The electric company doesn’t like late payments and either does a freelancer, eventually losing your freelancer. Make sure to agree upon the best form of communication whether it be text/messenger, email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. If they have questions, most likely they’ll need a quick answer. Make sure you also set up expectations of how and when they will communicate updates and follow up. There are some great resources to help you know where they are in a project so you don’t feel completely out of the loop. Two tools I like and have used personally are Trello and Asana. Both offer free services, but if you want to get fancy, they have other levels for a monthly fee.
When it comes to a freelancer, it’s important to have good communication on how you will set up payments. Make sure to ask what form of payment they prefer, but make sure it’s one you’re also comfortable with. Some may ask for a partial or whole fee up front, especially when starting out. If they have a contract (like any good freelancer should) make sure you understand the payment terms, including late fees. For instance, I charge all my clients through my Quickbooks program on the first of the month, with payment due in 10 business days. I make sure this is in my contract as well as communicated elsewhere to my clients so we are on the same page. If you’re having them produce Google ads, social media ads, and other types of advertising, make sure you’ve established how that will be paid for. Will the freelancer cover it and bill you for it or will you handle those fees directly? If they cover the cost, you can always ask for receipts for your tax purposes.
If you’re hiring someone to do your marketing, it’s important to make sure you’re paying them a good rate. If you’re not sure what that looks like, there a few different websites that can help, like PayScale and Salary.com. Make sure their salary isn’t the whole marketing budget either - they need to know they have a budget to work with. There’s only so much you can do for free, and if you want them to produce great marketing, they’re going to need good resources.
Ultimately, if you don’t see the true value of marketing for your small business or non-profit, some of the numbers you come across may be hard to swallow. There will also be instances where it’s hard to show the true ROI - customers may take up to 12 touchpoints before they step foot in your business or call your number. It can also take up to 3 months to start to see results from website changes, social media campaign, or other digital marketing efforts. When you go in with the right expectations, whether DIY, hire, or freelance, you’ll see more success in your marketing efforts. Here’s to seeing your business/organization grow!
Want to chat with me about how I could help your business? Drop me an email!
Social media scheduling tools are great.
You can plan a whole campaign in one day, and make adjustments when needed. It's like you never need to check the actual accounts. Then, you noticed you're losing a few followers, even though you're posts are getting shared, liked, and commented on. These few lost followers might not seem like much, but maybe you need to think about checking your notifications on the accounts. In fact, Microsoft reported that 74% of millennials perception improves for a company when they get a response through social media.
As a one-person marketing team, I understand being pressed for time. Certain things take priority. Especially in a service industry, social media needs to start being one of them. Although I've used Hootsuite and currently use Buffer, I still make it appoint to check each channel individually. I look for comments, private messages, sharing, and even likes. It never takes long, so I check 2-3 times a day. Giving the time to say "thanks for sharing!" or replying to a comment helps continue to build on your high-quality customer service. Although I never directly work with the customers, I want to make sure that they know they can reach the company whether it's in a phone call or private message.
One pet peeve I have as a consumer, who is also a marketing professional, is when a company asks you to tag them or use a special hashtag for a promotion or campaign then does nothing with it. If you ask your followers to do something specific and they take time to do it, please acknowledge them for it! A quick like or comment could mean the difference between brand loyalty or changing their perspective of your company.
Keep the engagement going - after all, it is called "social" media so be social! Think of it as one more outlet for customer service, positively advancing your customers' experience with your company and building a great reputation.
Don't have time to schedule and monitor your business social media accounts? Let's chat!
You don't want to ward off quality candidates with bad or plainly outdated content.
A few years ago, I was a full-time job seeker. I had bookmarked pages like Indeed and Monster. Part of my daily ritual became checking those job boards. I painstakingly read through hundreds of job descriptions, all saying a lot of the same things. I began to loathe any job description that took me a few scrolls to get through, or that went on and on with job duties.
From my experience, I came to the conclusion that hiring professionals need to see job descriptions as part of a company's marketing. They may not be working to attract customers for sales, but they are working to attract top talent to make those sales happen. I've also done the hiring process and I know interviews are lengthy and time-consuming. Why waste time with mediocre candidates when you could attract the best fit for the job?
Here are three areas I've come up with that hiring professionals should consider when they create a job posting:
1. Don't say "We've always [said] it that way.
"Whether a position has a short life cycle or had the same person in it for the last 25 years, doesn't mean you should use the same content. Just like you're company's marketing needs to be updated, you need to keep your content fresh as well. You don't want to ward off quality candidates with bad or plainly outdated content; make sure you review before posting it. If you have a marketing person or department, have them take a look as well - after all, part of what you're doing is marketing to potential employees!
2. Short with Clarity
The one phrase that has always turned me away in a job description usually says "All other duties assigned". To me, this means a company doesn't have a clear idea of what my job is and I could get stuck with some work that I'm not completely qualified for or, frankly, don't want to do. Don't leave a job description up in the air - it's just like when a marketing piece is vague in its offer. Try to be as clear as possible so that you don't have a disgruntled employee later on.
With clarity also comes getting to the point. While details are good, going on and on can be redundant or annoying. Grab the writer from your marketing department to see if they can't write it in fewer words to say the same thing.
3. Lists - Rule of Three
This has always been my favorite rule when I write (as you can tell by this post). The Rule of Three makes content easier for the reader, and they're more likely to read it all. Wikipedia says using the Rule of Three results in content that is "inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective". Having 10 or more bullet points can be a bit excessive. If you can't say it in three, shoot for no more than six. Make sure you're not just repeating part of another bullet or have content that could be in the same bullet.
So get a little creative, hiring professionals. Job descriptions don't have to be mundane, especially depending on the personality of the company. Make it a team effort if you don't think you've got the creative mojo - after all, that's why you helped hire marketers!
Want help with your company's or organization's marketing? Let's chat!