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5 tips for marketing when you don’t have time

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

Whether it’s back to school, harvest time or retail holiday season, plenty of businesspeople hit a point when there’s not enough time to sleep, much less market yourself.

Do you not have enough hours in the day for marketing? Five tips to help you stay in touch with your customers. Photo by JD Baskin used under Creative Commons license.

Do you not have enough hours in the day for marketing? Five tips to help you stay in touch with your customers.
Photo by JD Baskin used under Creative Commons license.

If that sounds like you, let’s dive right into five pointers to stay on your customers’ radar during your busy time:

  1. Think small — Your customers are probably busy, too, so don’t be afraid to do an email newsletter or blog post that’s just one photo and a couple sentences. A sale, a new product, the return of a favorite product, special hours, all you need is one idea your customers will find useful.
  2. Think efficient — If you have little chunks of time, like a few minutes between when you’re done setting up and when you actually open, grab your phone and write one quick post you push across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Conversely, block off 15 minutes to schedule daily social media posts for the whole week using a tool like HootSuite. Let technology make it easier to use whatever limited time you have.
  3. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — If part of the reason you’re so busy is that you are answering endless calls and emails with the same questions over and over, use your marketing to intercept those frequently asked questions. Be sure your hours and directions are on your website and that you share them frequently in your e-newsletter and on social media, for example. If people are always asking if you have X in stock, post a picture of it when you do.
  4. Delegate — If you usually update your website yourself because you want to make sure it gets done to your exacting standards, it might be better to let someone else do it for now than to not have it happen at all. Give a clear assignment like “put our back-to-school sale on the front of the website with a big, bold headline and a picture” and accept that done is better than perfect. If you don’t have anyone on staff who can help, maybe you should hire a consultant or temp for short-term help or perhaps a favorite customer would pitch in for a trade.
  5. Be human — If you’re up at 4 a.m. (either already or still), snap a selfie and share it on your social media. Showing people what your frantic time is like might help them understand why your email response time is a little longer than usual.

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Five tips for better do-it-yourself market research

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine 3 Comments
SurveyMonkey is the online survey tool I use most.

SurveyMonkey is the online survey tool I use most.

Does owning pots and pans make you a Top Chef contender? Does having a piano in your house get you a recording contract? If you buy a paint brush, will you become Picasso or Van Gogh?

Unfortunately some people confuse the availability of a tool with the skills to use the tool well.

Online survey tools like SurveyMonkeySurveyGizmo and many others make it quick and easy to solicit feedback then analyze the results.

But if you don’t put thought into what you’re asking and how you’re asking it, as well as what the answers mean, you might have the best of intentions for listening to your customers but accidentally get led astray.

Here are five tips for improving your do-it-yourself market research via online surveys:

1. Carefully consider who you will ask and how.

Let’s say you want to ask your customers how you can improve your service. You’ll put together a survey and email it to your customers. Easy.

But do you value all your customers equally? Are some of them far more profitable than others? Are some huge time wasters who complain about everything? Maybe you only want to survey a segment of your customers.

Do you have valid email addresses for all your customers? Are some of your customers tech phobic or do you do business with them only by phone or in person? Maybe you’ll need to mail a postcard with the survey link or call some customers to ask for their feedback verbally.

If some of your customers are big organizations, which of your numerous contacts there do you survey?

What about reaching potential customers — those people you’d love to sell to but haven’t yet?

Thinking through whose opinion you want and how you’ll reach those people can shape the kinds of questions you ask.

2. Choose your words wisely.

Have you ever asked a sullen teenage girl across the dinner table, “How was your day?” Did you get any useful information? Did you maybe have to ask a more specific question? Or get persistent?

How you ask a question influences whether you get a useful answer.

Constant Contact offers best practices in writing questions including asking just one thing per question, limiting the number of questions so the survey takes only five or 10 minutes and asking mostly multiple choice questions.

Usability.com suggests, among other things, watching out for overlapping answer choices (do you offer “three or four times a month” and “weekly” as frequency choices, for example?) and making sure you proofread your survey.

I think ratings are easier and faster to answer than rankings, and ratings choices (1-5 or 1-7, for example) should have an odd number so you can choose dead center if you’re neither positive or negative about something. I always include a “don’t know/ unsure” choice, and “does not apply” is helpful in giving people a chance to opt out of giving you an unhelpful answer. Read more

Preparation helps conferences pay off

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment
I had a great time leading six hours of workshops on digital marketing at the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association conference, in part because I had so many quality conversations about marketing.

I had a great time leading six hours of workshops on digital marketing at the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association conference, in part because I had so many quality conversations about marketing.

I’ve just come back from a conference where I had more good conversations than I could count, got good ideas and business leads, and came away reinvigorated.

That wasn’t an accident.

I’ve been to enough conferences that I’ve developed some strategies about how to make them work for me:

1. Choose conferences carefully — I’m not a highly sought after keynote speaker so I’m not waking up in a new city every day. I have finite resources to spend on events so I put serious thought into where I’ll get the most benefit. For me, a big part of that selection is that I want to be surrounded by smart, energetic, positive people who will fill my head with good ideas, my heart with motivation and my inbox with lasting connections. If I get that at an event, I’ll try to return. If not, I keep looking.

2. Focus on what I’m promoting — I don’t just randomly have conversations about what I do, where I’m from, how many times I’ve been to this conference before.  I mean, I do that, too, but I try to have a clear focus. What about my business do I want to market and how? What’s the most important message I want to convey?

3. Give my target customers a reason to talk to me — I’ve spent enough time staring at my watch at a trade show booth to realize that just hoping the right people will wander by is a tough way to pass a day. Instead, I’ve had much better luck narrowing the window — come see a demo 2-4 p.m. Friday, for example — and offering some motivation — I’ll have free breakfast or I’m giving away discounts or prizes.

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Marketing Monday: What do Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday mean to you?

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Black FridaySmall Business SaturdayCyber Monday, Giving Tuesday … remember when it used to be just plain ol’ Thanksgiving?

It seems there’s been more buzz this year around Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, making this a long weekend devoted to conversations of shopping and discounts.

Should your business participate? Obviously too late to join in for this year, but maybe you’re Monday morning quarterbacking or thinking about next year.

Recently I wrote a post about starting with your business goals, then taking actions consistent with those goals and building a communications plan around those actions.

Deciding whether to take part in any of these themed days — or anything like it, maybe a chamber of commerce promotion or a street festival — goes back to those three steps.

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Marketing Monday: Beta testing a quick-hit marketing review service offers helpful lessons

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

When technology companies use their own products, it’s commonly called eating your own dog food.

Why dog food? I don’t know. But pour me a big bowl of Gravy Train.

A few days ago, I posted to my Newvine Growing Facebook page looking for people to help me beta test a new service:

I am testing a new service offering and I’d love to find a few guinea pigs to help me.
I’d like to offer quick-hit consulting sessions, just 90 minutes start to finish, where we review your business goals and look at how well your marketing communications lines up with those goals.
Are your website, email newsletter, social media, brochures and the like telling the right story to the right people to help you get where you want to go?

I plan to charge $300 for these intensive work sessions, but if you help me refine the format and give me feedback on how to improve, I’ll offer you half price.
If you get one decent idea, could you increase your sales by $150 to make that time pay for itself?

I'm *not* a graphic designer. Once I get some feedback on the service, I'll work with my artist husband to create something more professional than this announcement.

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Marketing Monday: Remember to say thank you

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

I recently had a catch-up coffee with a friend who is a smart, passionate entrepreneur with a strong drive not just to succeed but to do things well. Not surprisingly, I came away thinking about how I run my business and how I can do it better.

The friend had two related observations:

  1. He is aware that none of his customers have to do business with him so he wants everything about their experience to convey his gratitude. He reminds his employees that they have jobs because of customers spending their money and he sends thank you gifts to big customers.
  2. He wants to feel that same appreciation from his business partners. He was looking for retailers to work with and nixed those where he walked and felt a chilly reception from staff, and he’s loathe to spend money with big-ticket vendors that don’t seem enthusiastic about his business.

This isn’t about mob-style kickbacks or superficial sucking up. As we talked about the importance of showing gratitude, it was clear that my friend was talking about the human connection of doing business.

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Five tips for getting started using Twitter for marketing

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

Last summer, I wrote a series of guest blog posts for Stirring Up Success, a B2B blog run by Dawn Foods, a manufacturer of bakery ingredients and products and distributor to the bakery industry. According to a case study by Crossroads, StirringUpSuccess.com has been featured in top industry trade publications as a unique and helpful tool for bakery owners.

Here’s my third post in the series, offering bakeries some pointers for getting started using Twitter as a marketing tool. Even if you don’t run a bakery, I hope the basics apply, but I apologize if you find yourself suddenly craving a cupcake.

Using Twitter for the first time can feel like hearing people speak  a foreign language – or for those old enough to remember, it’s like turning on a CB radio, where voices you don’t recognize are using slang you don’t understand in conversations you aren’t sure how to join.

Getting started on Facebook probably feels a little easier, because its format is closer to websites or blogs. But with a little watching and listening, you can use 140-character tweets for business communication.

Here are five tips for using Twitter for business:

  1. Set up your account – Go to Twitter and fill in your name, email and password. On the next screen you choose your user name, sometimes called your Twitter handle. If you’re new to Twitter, I recommend using your personal name so you can experiment without attaching your business name to your trial and error. Because Twitter users communicate with each other by using handles, choose something short and easy to spell. JessSmith is better than Jessica_Lynn_Smith-Kluczyk, for example.
  2. Add a photo and a description.  Your Twitter photo, also called an avatar, helps identify you with your tweets. Your photo and profile description both help create a credible presence, and demonstrate you’re real, as opposed to the spambots you will encounter.
  3. Set up saved searches.  Start with the name of your business, then any related ways people might talk about your business or product, to scan Twitter for what people are already saying about you. Enter a term at the top of the page, then click the gear on the right of the results screen to get the option to save. Your saved searches will appear when you click your cursor in Twitter website’s search box.
  4. Follow people.  The quickest way to learn is to watch others. Try following some of Twitter’s most popular accountssome of Time magazine’s best Twitter feeds, and use Twitter’s profile search or a directory like Twellow.com to find people with your interests.
  5. Talk to people.  Twitter can initially feel like you’re talking to yourself. The easiest way to make sure someone is listening is to tweet at another user. When you see an interesting tweet in your saved search or news feed, click “reply” and Twitter will insert an @ symbol ahead of that user’s handle, letting him know you’re answering.  RT means retweet, sharing someone else’s tweet with your followers, and MT means modified retweet, generally because you had to shorten it to make 140 characters. Be sure to read your own @ replies so you know when someone’s talking to you.

If you’re stuck figuring out what to say, start by figuring out your strategy for social media and let that guide the kinds of tweets you post. We’ll talk more about strategy and content in a future post.

Colleen Newvine Tebeau is a former reporter and editor who then earned her MBA at University of Michigan with emphases in marketing and corporate strategy.  She is a marketing consultant who helps small and midsized organizations with strategy and tactics, including social media and communications.

Five tips for getting started using Facebook for marketing

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By this point, Facebook has become so culturally ubiquitous that probably even the remaining holdouts who don’t have an account have at least seen it and are aware of the concept of the interconnected social network.

But even those who are active personally might not know how to use Facebook for marketing.

Sadly, it’s getting harder, as Facebook’s algorithm for what users see in their news feed limits the number of users seeing page content – the rough number thrown around is that only about 10 percent of those who’ve liked the page see that page’s posts in their news feeds. So even if you’ve already liked my business page, or Coke’s or Justin Bieber’s, there’s a good chance you’re missing what we’re sharing with you.

Still, it’s a huge, free channel to not just share your message but engage your fans in conversation, so it’s worth getting to know.

So here’s a guest post I wrote last summer for a business-to-business blog for bakeries, on how to get started using Facebook for business.  Stirring Up Success is run by Dawn Foods, a manufacturer of bakery ingredients and products and distributor to the bakery industry. According to a case study by Crossroads, StirringUpSuccess.com has been featured in top industry trade publications as a unique and helpful tool for bakery owners.

My first post in the series encouraged bakeries to take the time to define their business goals to help them be more effective on social media. Then we built on that with some how-tos for Facebook beginners:

Social Media Strategy – Facebook

Facebook has more than 1 billion active users so odds are good you already have an account with the popular social media site. But are you using it to find high school friends or to help grow your business?

Starting with a strategy for your social media will help guide you, as I blogged about last month. For example, do you want to use Facebook to talk to existing customers or try to reach new ones, and are you trying to make more sales or help improve customer support?

Once you have defined your social media goals, here are five tips for using Facebook for business:

Set up a page – not a profile, not a group. When you create your page, you can choose from designations including local business or brand. Facebook prohibits businesses from using personal profiles, so if you previously set up a profile instead of a page, here’s how to convert it.

Fill in the “about” section. So many businesses don’t take advantage of this obvious place to answer visitors’ basic questions about who you are and what you do.

Manage your page’s settings. Click on Edit Page, then Update Info and you can customize the name of your page to something like https://www.facebook.com/NewvineGrowing . You can also set up email notifications when users comment, and get the ability to either post under your business name or as a person.

Post a mix of content. Photos pop visually in your fans’ news feed, links can direct your Facebook fans to content on your website or blog, questions let your customers know you care what’s on their minds. Variety lets you see what your visitors respond to, and keeps you from sounding monotonous.


Experiment with posting at different times and on different days. According to social media scientist Dan Zarrella, Saturday is the best day to post to Facebook and the best time is noon if you want maximum engagement. That’s on average, though, so it’s important to see if that’s true for your customers.

How will you know if you’re on the right track? Facebook Insights gives you data on how many people your page has reached each day and what kinds of results each of your individual posts got. If you aren’t sure what any of the numbers mean, hover your cursor over the question mark or data point and you’ll get more information.

Five questions to begin your strategy for effective use of social media

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

Last summer, I wrote a series of guest blog posts for Stirring Up Success, a B2B blog run by Dawn Foods, a manufacturer of bakery ingredients and products and distributor to the bakery industry. According to a case study by Crossroads, StirringUpSuccess.com has been featured in top industry trade publications as a unique and helpful tool for bakery owners.

Here’s my first post in the series, encouraging bakeries to take the time to define their business goals to help them be more effective on social media.

We have a shelf full of cookbooks, which help us figure out a plan when we cook.

Using social media without a strategy is a bit like turning on the oven without knowing whether you’re reheating last night’s leftovers or baking an elaborate wedding cake.

Just as understanding how to use a measuring cup and mixer are essential to baking, comfort with social media tools can make it easier to implement a plan. But there’s a difference between randomly throwing some ingredients together and following a formula – you need a strategy.

Five questions to help you get strategic about social media:

  1. What are your company’s goals? Do you want more sales, bigger sales, new customers, more orders from existing customers, different kinds of customers? Be as specific as possible, so you can measure your progress.
  2. What’s your status quo?  Inventory your existing communications, including newsletters, social media and brochures. Even in a small organization, this is worthwhile so everyone is conscious of what you have and so you don’t reinvent the wheel.
  3. Who is your audience?  Describe who you want to reach, what they want and how they like to communicate. Are you trying to stay in touch with existing customers so they will tell their friends about you or find potential new customers? The way you talk to moms planning birthday parties in the Midwest is very different from corporate event planners in Los Angeles.
  4. What is your competition doing with social media? You don’t need to copy what they’re doing, but you should be aware. It’s also a cheap way to keep an eye on them.
  5. What resources do you have? Be realistic. If you have a small staff with no communications budget, you need to be selective about what you take on. Consider your talents and interests as well. For example,would you rather write or take pictures?

Answering these questions doesn’t mean you have a social media strategy, but it should get the conversation started.

One final thought: don’t limit yourself by only thinking about pushing out information. Social media is a two-way conversation. It can be an excellent way to ask questions, listen to what people are saying about you and your competition and to respond to customer concerns.

Colleen Newvine Tebeau is a former reporter and editor who then earned her MBA at University of Michigan with emphases in marketing and corporate strategy.  She is a marketing consultant who helps small and midsized organizations with strategy and tactics, including social media and communications.

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